Thursday, January 17, 2008

Franchise Operation

Although Reuters reports that "Skepticism greets 'Al Qaeda in Britain' founding" among security experts who see it as more noise than signal, there are still some alarmists in NATO who are expressing concern about an anonymous Internet posting that declares that the global terror organization now has opened a branch office in the British Isles.

Today, Australian newspapers are announcing "UK aiming to curb terrorists on the Internet," who -- along with pedophiles -- will apparently be subject to more policing and be thwarted by more takedown orders enforced by Internet service providers. Perhaps the most bizarre statement about constraining violent political sentiments in virtual communities in the article is this assertion: "Smith said she planned to consult with the internet industry in the coming weeks and told reporters it should be possible to develop filters to remove militant material from the internet like those commonly used to stop children accessing adult content."

Of course, not only has filtering proven ineffective for pornography, particularly when the hardcore content is titled with bland descriptions, and such ideological screening is burdened with negative connotations for those who might draw analogies with policies of China and other authoritarian states, but also the rhetoric of criminality about supposed subversive online activities sometimes has embarrassing results, if policy-makers turn out to have overreacted to a lone digital message.

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