in Politics

Apparently the UK government are revisiting the idea of net censorship, in the context of anti-terrorism.

UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith as reported in the “Guardian, Government targets extremist websites“:

Speaking to the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme before her speech, Smith said there were specific examples of websites that “clearly fall under the category of gratifying terrorism”. “There is growing evidence people may be using the internet both to spread messages and to plan specifically for terrorism,” she said. “That is why, as well as changing the law to make sure we can tackle that, there is more we need to do to show the internet is not a no-go area as far as tackling terrorism is concerned.”

This could go really wrong, really fast. Will we be allowed to read Bin Laden texts online? Hitler, Stalin? Talk to people who sympathise with organizations deemed terroristic? Who live in countries in the ‘axis of evil’? Doubtless the first sites to be targetted will be the most outrageous, but we’re on a slippery slope here.

It’s pretty much impossible to stop the online radicalisation of angry young men. But driving that process underground, and criminalising anyone on the fringes of the scene, will make it all the harder for calm voices and nuanced opinions to be heard. ‘Us and them’ is exactly what we don’t need right now.

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  1. This reminds me of recent interview with a neo-nazi in a Norwegian newspaper. The journalist asked if the Internet was important to them, and he responded “if it wasn’t for the Internet, I’d have to kill you.”

    Driving this underground is not the solution. In fact, this was one of the motivations I had for getting involved with Semantic Web in the first place, we need mechanisms to annotate objectional content, not for censorship, but for expressing an informed opinion that people have a chance to find. This is also one of the motivating use cases for for POWDER.