Friday, September 14, 2007

EU Web-Block

The EU wants to get tough on terrorism.

Internet searches for bomb-making instructions should be blocked across the European Union, the bloc's top security official said on Monday.

Of course that seems reasonable at first glance. So what are they proposing- creating a team of cyber-detectives to track down these websites and shut them down by any means necessary? Why, no, of course not!

Internet providers should also prevent access to any site giving instructions on how to make a bomb, EU Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini said in an interview.

"I do intend to carry out a clear exploring exercise with the private sector ... on how it is possible to use technology to prevent people from using or searching dangerous words like bomb, kill, genocide or terrorism," Frattini told Reuters.

In short, the government doesn't know how to do what they're proposing but they want to try and foist it onto the ISPs, burdening them instead with the problem and no doubt also the cost of implementing their scheme. Note too that he suggests banning words like terrorism and genocide- dangerous words- but not words like "jihad". And there's no mention at all of the jihadist propaganda and recruitment videos that seem rife on the internet.

Asked whether a plan to block searches for bomb instructions or for the word 'terrorism' on Web search engines could infringe on the rights to expression and information, Frattini said in the phone interview:

"Frankly speaking, instructing people to make a bomb has nothing to do with the freedom of expression, or the freedom of informing people.

"The right balance, in my view, is to give priority to the protection of absolute rights and, first of all, right to life."

Frattini said there would be no bar on opinion, analysis or historical information but operational instructions useful to terrorists should be blocked.

So the government can circumvent access to certain information that they deem to be dangerous- right now it's bomb-making info but it seems to me that this could be the beginning of a slippery slope. What might they consider to be "dangerous words" in years to come?

And I see too that he's proposing that search engines will block dangerous words but only those leading to websites where certain information might be located- which would mean that they'd need some way to track and find those websites, no? So perhaps it would make sense just to shut those sites down instead of letting them distribute jihadist instructions and just ban people in the EU from accessing them- or maybe the EU doesn't mind if someone looks up the info in, say, Algeria and then takes a quick trip north to France or Italy and puts that information to use. And banning words won't really work for jihadist forums, to name but one example, where people can go and presumably access the same bomb-making information without having to go to any search engine in the first place. Do the EU have a plan for that or is this merely some knee-jerk reaction from people who don't really understand the breadth of the problem and how the internet works.

After German police arrested three men suspected of a major bomb plot last week, politicians called for greater powers to monitor computers. Germany's top appeals court has ruled the clandestine monitoring of computers by police is illegal.

"The level of the threat (in the EU) remains very high," Frattini said. "That's why I am making appeals and appeals for stronger and closer cooperation."

Ah, I see where this is going now and why he's not proposing a team to attack the jihadist websites themselves- another attempt by the government to make ISPs track and keep the records of their customers. On-line CCTV so to speak, so that Big Brother can find out what the peasants are up to.

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