U.K. may clamp down on the Internet

February 7, 2012

Britain’s Home Affairs Committee published a report Tuesday on the roots of violent radicalization and it found one culprit: The Web.


A member of staff at the British National Hi-Tech Crime Unit analyzes the contents of a computer hard drive at a secret location in England. (KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

The U.K. already removes plenty of material from the Web. When an outcry began in India on Monday after Google and Facebook announced they were removing pages within the country, a Google Transparency Report showed the U.K. removed just as much.

The British government made 65 separate requests to Google to remove content between January and June of last year, 82 percent of which Google complied with.

The majority of the the takedown requests cited concerns over “privacy and security.”

When the London riots happened last year, the government also tried to crack down on the technology for the role it played in allowing violent protesters to organize.

Blackberry Messenger service was temporarily suspended in the country, and several who used the service were later prosecuted. The government also suggested retaining the power to shut down social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, though Downing Street received so much flak over the suggestion that it later backed off.

But the British government has bigger fish to fry than one-time rioters. Last week, four men “radicalized over the Internet” were convicted for planning to bomb the London Stock Exchange. Preventing another attack like the July 7, 2005 bombings in London is paramount, the committee said. And removing content from the Internet appears to the best prevention strategy.

This time, though, Downing Street is hoping not to ruffle so many feathers, either among the public or would-be radicals.

“The Committee also recommends that the current name of the counter-radicalization strategy, ‘Prevent,’ should be changed to ‘Engage,’” the report reads, “to reflect a more supportive, partnership-based approach.”

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