Internet and the terrorists


Yesterday, the New York Times had a front—page article reminding us that the internet has become a tool used by terrorists to spread their noxious beliefs, gather supporters,  raise money, and to plan murder. Rachel Ehrenfeld also had an article in Front Page Magazine regarding the use of cable, satellite, and the internet by terrorist groups. Both articles pointed out the dangers that these groups pose to all of us, and how the unregulated and fiercely defended freedom that reigns on the internet, may become an indulgent licentiousness that imperils us. 
While many netizens are leery of any restrictions on the freedom that flourishes on the internet and have a libertarian approach regarding any threats to this freedom, it is incumbent on us to accept some  responsible oversight. After all, not many would support internet child pornography or the sale of illegal weapons or drugs via the internet. For greater reasons still, since terror can now have tragic results on a widespread scale, efforts should be made to prevent terrorists and their supporters from being able to access the internet.

The Times touched upon the possibility of prevailing upon ISP providers to deny web—hosting services to such dangerous persons and groups. A much more thorough remedy was proposed two days ago by Rachel Ehrenfeld in the New York Sun. There she notes that the Patriot Act defines the facilitation of communication for terrorist purposes as a terrorist act, and states that providing internet services would fall under this provision (perhaps the New York Times, which opposes the Patriot Act did not care to cover this angle). She wonders why the Department of Homeland Security does not enforce this law. She also goes beyond this by proposing that Congress enact new legislation requiring American—based ISPs to demand their clients, the Web hosting companies, identify their customers. This can be done through methods similar to Know Your Customer procedures, which are already in place for American banks.

Furthermore the Senate should ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on Cyber Crime which contains methods that would prevent terrorists from hijacking the internet.

Ed Lasky   9 24 04