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UK Lawmakers Want Internet Monitoring

Published: 06/02/2012 01:20:12 PM GMT
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CAIRO - British lawmakers called in a report on Monday, February 6, for websites to monitor and remove online materials that promote violent extremism, (more)

CAIRO - British lawmakers called in a report on Monday, February 6, for websites to monitor and remove online materials that promote violent extremism, a move protested by civil liberties groups as a breach of  people's privacy.  

"We remain concerned by the growing support for nonviolent extremism and more extreme and violent forms of far-right ideology," the Home Affairs Committee said in the report cited by The Scotsman.

The report, which follows a nine-month inquiry by the Commons home affairs select committee, concluded the internet is a “fertile breeding ground for terrorism” and plays a part in most, if not all, cases of violent radicalization.

It says the Internet "was now one of the few unregulated spaces where radicalization is able to take place" more than prisons, universities or places of worship.

The report, however, recognizes that a “sense of grievance” was key, and direct personal contact with radicals was a “significant factor”.  

The committee recommended that internet service providers should be more active in monitoring sites and the government should work with them to develop a code of practice for removing material that could lead to radicalization.

"More resources need to be directed to these threats and to preventing radicalization through the Internet and in private spaces," said Keith Vaz, chairman of the committee.

"These are the fertile breeding grounds for terrorism."

Vaz said that the 7/7 attacks in London, carried out by four men from West Yorkshire, were a powerful demonstration of the devastating and far-reaching impact of home-grown radicalization.

“We remain concerned by the growing support for non-violent extremism and more extreme and violent forms of far-right ideology.”

He added that “a policy of engagement, not alienation” would prevent radicalization and called for the government's counter-radicalization strategy Prevent to be renamed Engage.

British Muslims, estimated at nearly two million, have been in the eye of storm since the 7/7 attacks.

A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.

A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.

Breach of Privacy

The report's conclusions challenged the view expressed last year by Home Secretary Theresa May, who said that universities and prisons are among the most vulnerable areas.

The committee said although several convicted terrorists have attended prisons and universities, “there is seldom concrete evidence to confirm that this is where they were radicalized”.

Earlier in June, May sparked outrage by accusing British universities of being complacent in fighting radicalization on campus.

The minister's comments preceded a review to the Prevent anti-terror policy, which would broaden the definition of extremism to include non-violent groups.

The committee also called for better information-sharing between prison bosses, the police and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) following the release of prisoners who have been convicted of terror offences.

Responding to the report, the Home Office said it would consider the committee's findings.

“This is an interesting report and we will consider its findings,” a Home Office spokesman said.

Yet, the committee recommendations to monitor the internet were protested by civil liberties activists as a breach of people's privacy.

“Whatever the reason for blocking online content, it should be decided in court and not by unaccountable officials,” Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties and privacy group Big Brother Watch, 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.”

Reproduced with permission from