Terrorism is breeding online, warn MPs
06 February 2012
The internet acts as a "fertile breeding ground" for terrorism and the government must work with internet providers to remove content promoting violent extremism, a cross-party committee of MPs has warned. But civil liberty campaigners have said proposed measures would lead to an invasion of privacy for anyone using the internet and that tighter controls could drive threats underground.
In their new report on the roots of violent radicalisation, the Commons Home Affairs Committee said the internet had been used to promote violent radicalism more than prisons, universities or places of worship.
With the internet playing a part in most cases of violent radicalisation, MPs said internet service providers needed to monitor online material and that the government needed to work with them to develop a code of practice for the removal of content promoting violent extremism.
Committee chair Keith Vaz said the 7/7 London bombings had shown the "devastating" impact of "home-grown radicalisation", adding that the committee was concerned about growing support for non-violent extremism as well as extreme and violent far-right ideologies.
"The conviction last week of four men from London and Cardiff radicalised over the internet, for a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange and launch a Mumbai-style atrocity on the streets of London, shows that we cannot let our vigilance slip," he said.
"More resources need to be directed to these threats and to preventing radicalisation through the internet and in private spaces. These are the fertile breeding grounds for terrorism."
But campaigners have expressed fears that monitoring online material would violate privacy for everyone.
Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties and privacy group Big Brother Watch, said the decision to block online content should be decided in court and not by unaccountable officials.
"The level of monitoring required to police such a scheme would mean a significant invasion of every internet user's privacy," he said.
"There is a serious risk that this kind of censorship not only makes the internet less secure for law abiding people, but drives underground the real threats and makes it harder to protect the public."