Home 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.