Friday, January 18, 2008

Much heat, little light on "terror" websites

Jacqui SmithHome Secretary Jacqui Smith made a big media splash yesterday by calling for a crackdown on websites promoting terrorism. However, she gave little detail, claiming that discussions are ongoing with Internet Service Providers — who are almost universally sceptical of the idea.

If the government is talking about shutting down UK websites that "encourage" terrorism, then this is old news. Police constables have had this power since 2006 under s.3 of the Terrorism Act. However, if they plan to use the system already in place at most ISPs to block access to child abuse sites, this will be much more controversial — and almost completely ineffective.

As I told Associated Press, much propaganda and recruitment content from terror groups is already moving to password-protected forums. Flaky filters would just accelerate this process, in the meantime removing from view some useful intelligence on the activities of these groups.


Yokel said...

Of course they intend to use the Squid filters introduced to prevent accidental viewing of kiddie porn! And of course they know that it will be ineffective.

In fact with a black helicopter hat on, it would be very inconvenient if it were effective. Because its failure at this stage is the essential justification for introducing much more widespread logging and censorship of all aspects of internet use. After the UK population has had a year or so to get used to censorship of kiddie porn, and then the further censorship of "terrorist materials" they won't raise a squeak when even more such censorship "becomes necessary".

Brian Honan said...

Censorship has proven in the past to be ineffective when dealing with terrorism. The media ban of Sinn Fein representatives during the 80s is a prime example. Filtering unwanted content on the Internet will prove to be equally ineffective.

Sure it may prevent the accidental visit to a particular site, but it will not stop those actively seeking/spreading this material.

Active engagement and energy spent in countering the doctrine and messages broadcast by terrorist groups is far more effective.

The Institute of European Affairs have published a book on research into this topic, "Countering Militant Islamist Radicalisation on the Internet",, and is a very interesting read.
Disclaimer, I was one of a number of people interviewed during the research for this book.

Anonymous said...

NEW TOP TERRORISM threat there are new signs that terror groups are using pron web sites
to funnel money and resources and personal any where they like.

How often will some one stop a pretty girl and have a strip search and a back ground search done on
them, and there organizations they clam to work for. The back ground of the organizations are very
hard to find and very shaky. But a real THREAT.