Policing the internet

www.terror.net: How Modern Terrorism Uses the Internet is a publication I often re-read to understand the evolving debates on policing the web and internet. The most recent high-profile statements in the US involve Senator Lieberman, who said that

“We cannot cede cyberspace to the Islamist terrorists because if we do, they will successfully carry out attacks against us in our normal environment”

Similar arguments have been made against the LTTE’s propaganda on the web and internet, and there was recently a call to ban all video clips on YouTube that were pro-LTTE by Glen Jenvey.

The blog post I read on Sen. Liberman’s comments went on to say:

Not to say that terrorism should be tolerated, but is the internet really the source of the problem? Isn’t this merely skirting the issue, and grasping at straws? Even if the Al-Qaida presence is shut down online, will that really end terrorism? At best, it slows them down temporarily. Is that worth the cost? If you start policing the internet for terrorists, why stop there? Why not take down any anti-American website? Why not take down any site that isn’t completely pro-America? Even if you shut down a terrorist site, it’s only a matter of time before it reappears. Perhaps we should be worrying about physical terrorism, instead of online terrorist conversations. If nothing else, these sites give us an insight into what the terrorists are thinking. These sites aren’t doing any harm, it’s the terrorists themselves that are the problem. Leave our blessed internet alone.

which echoes the conclusions of the USIP report, that avers:

While we must better defend our societies against cyberterrorism and Internet-savvy terrorists, we should also consider the costs of applying counterterrorism measures to the Internet. Such measures can hand authoritarian governments and agencies with little public accountability tools with which to violate privacy, curtail the free flow of information, and restrict freedom of expression, thus adding a heavy price in terms of diminished civil liberties to the high toll exacted by terrorism itself.

In Understanding terrorism better through technology I explore how technology can help us respond to Manichean worldviews and actions by extremists – cognisant that the technologies that help us better understand and respond to terrorism may well be the very same that they use to terrorise us.

See also:
Writing in pacifism to technology – An impossible vision?
Is technology neutral?

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