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EU on web-terror: Something must be done

I didn't get a 'harrumph' out of that guy ...

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EU ambassadors have agreed on a draft statement regarding "cooperation to combat terrorist use of the internet". Justice and Interior ministers are expected to endorse the document in June.

The EU draft text (which can be downloaded here [pdf]), lays out conclusions regarding the so-called "Check the Web", initiative launched by Germany, which currently holds the EU Presidency.

The Eurocrats reckon internet terror is a big deal.

"Internet use plays a significant role for terrorist organisations," they write.

"Terrorists use the internet to radicalise, recruit, and train potential terrorists and to transfer information. So-called terror manuals provide instructions on how to produce weapons, how to carry out attacks, how to take hostages and how to build bombs, among other things. In the face of the global availability of the internet, this is especially worrying."

As Mel Brooks might ask*, can I get a harrumph, here?

Oh yes.

"Only resolute action against the use of the internet by terrorist structures can tackle this development. The EU has a role to play in this and has recognised the need to act," according to the drafters.

"Member States and Europol are already actively monitoring and evaluating terrorist websites."

However, "activities of the Member States have to be accompanied by action at EU level".

Not to worry. "The European Commission [has] announced its intention to explore possibilities of tackling of content used to radicalise individuals for terrorism on the internet in order to address the factors conducive to violent radicalisation."

Phew. And there's more:

"It is hardly possible for one individual member state to cover all suspicious terrorism related activities on the internet.

"Monitoring and evaluating the internet should therefore be intensified by sharing this task on a voluntary basis among the Member States, taking advantage of the special language and professional competence of the relevant authorities of the individual Member States."

Apart from fearmongering and harrumphs for the record, there will be one actual thing done. Europol will boost its info-sharing portal service, allowing the various jihad-web watchers of Europe to pool intelligence.

"The establishment of this information portal will facilitate a significantly increased quality of cooperation between the Member States in monitoring and evaluating Islamist terrorist websites," says Brussels. Non-Islamist terrorists can presumably press on, happy in the knowledge that they won't be "monitored and evaluated", or anyway not by Europol.

There will also be an EU handbook on web terror monitoring. And, "at present some Member States under German lead responsibility are sharing the task of analysing Al Qaida's media department 'As-Sahab'. If possible, the results of the project will be made available in the [Europol] information portal".

This is a bit like "analysing" 77 PR (the chosen mouthpiece of eBay) and claiming as a result that one has gained useful information about the secretive management of the online tat bazaar.

Still, those who feel that the whole terror-on-the-internet thingy may be just a tad overhyped may not be distressed by the EU's rather limited response to it. Even so, it might be nice if they'd felt able to say "web-terror bores us, we're going to focus on farm subsidies instead" ®

*In the classic film Blazing Saddles -

Governor LePetomane (Brooks): "I didn't get a 'harrumph' out of that guy!"

Lamarr: "Give the governor a 'harrumph!'"

Guy: "Harrumph!"

Governor (frowns): "You watch your ass."

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