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Home Sec in anti-terror plan to control entire web

'I will remove illegal material from internet'

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UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has decided to mount a push against cyber terror, in which the internet itself will somehow be modified to prevent people using it for terrorist purposes.

Today, Ms Smith addressed an international conference on radicalisation and political violence. Much of the speech was about engagement with the Muslim community, preventing the use of schools and prisons for jihadi propaganda etc. There was also some suggestion that "dirty bombs" are jolly dangerous, and that this shows how serious the domestic terror threat is*.

However, the Home Secretary also reiterated the Brown government's promise of technical measures against web terror:

The internet is a key tool for the propagandists for violent extremism... Let me be clear. The internet is not a no-go area for Government.

We are already working closely with the communications industry to take action against paedophiles... we should also take action against those who groom vulnerable people for the purposes of violent extremism... I will be talking to industry... about how best to do this.

Where there is illegal material on the net, I want it removed.

The government's moves still appear to be focused more on perception than action. Yesterday, UK media outlets - for instance the Times, the BBC and the Daily Mail - obligingly rehashed the old, not-very-terrifying case of Younes Tsouli (aka "Terrorist 007") the most fearsome web terror mastermind yet snared, despite the complete absence of any new revelations. Only a cynic would suspect that Home Office briefers were behind the sudden news-free flood of web terror ink.

Today, Ms Smith followed in the less-than-illustrious footsteps of EC vice-president Franco Frattini and indeed her political master Gordon Brown.

Frattini memorably said last year that: "It should simply not be possible to leave people free to instruct other people on the internet on how to make a bomb." He reportedly planned to prevent this by unspecified actions at the level of European ISPs.

Brown went down a similar route in November, saying: "The Home Secretary is inviting the largest global technology and internet companies to work together to ensure that our best technical expertise is galvanised to counter online incitement to hatred." This turned out - thus far, anyway - to be no more than political posturing for the technically challenged, however.

UK internet service provider group ISPA confirmed to the Reg today that it still hadn't heard anything from the government regarding the web terror crackdown. It had asked for a meeting following the Brown speech, but so far has heard nothing.

An ISPA spokesman added: "It is important to note that many of these sites are hosted overseas... there is a working takedown procedure but censorship is the remit of the government not of industry."

The industry spokesman added that the government should "bear in mind that the internet is not the only place for this activity".

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