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The "Digital Pearl Harbor"

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Author Topic: The "Digital Pearl Harbor"  (Read 2803 times)
birther truther tenther
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« on: December 10, 2010, 12:25:32 pm »

The following is an excerpt from this UNIDIR:

Conclusion: where do we go from here?
While the potential of a "digital 9/11" is not great in the near future, the Internet has come of age
since 2001. Both terrorism and the Internet are significant global phenomena, reflecting and shaping
various aspects of world politics. Due to its global reach and rich multilingual context, the Internet
has the potential to influence in manifold ways many different types of political and social relations.
Unlike the traditional mass media, the Internet's open architecture means that efforts by governments
to regulate Internet activities are restricted, and this has provided users with immense freedom and
space to shape the Internet in their own likeness. Included within this cohort are terrorists who
increasingly employ new media to pursue their goals. The terrorists of today, like those of yesteryear,
are keen to exploit the traditional mass media while also recognizing the value of more direct
communication channels.
As far back as 1982, Alex Schmid and Janny De Graaf conceded that:
If terrorists want to send a message, they should be offered the opportunity to do so without
them having to bomb and kill. Words are cheaper than lives. The public will not be instilled
with terror if they see a terrorist speak; they are afraid if they see his victims and not himself
[…] If the terrorists believe that they have a case, they will be eager to present it to the
public. Democratic societies should not be afraid of this.19
Not everybody is in agreement with this position, however. Over time, both state and non-state
actors have endeavoured to curb the availability of terrorism-related materials online with varying
degrees of success. Authoritarian governments have met with some success by deploying technologies
that constrain their citizens' ability to access certain sites. There are fewer options for restriction
available to democratic governments, however, and although recently more restrictive legislation has
been promulgated in a number of jurisdictions, it is not yet clear that it will be any more successful
than previous attempts at controlling, for example, cyber-hate. In terms of terrorist web sites and
their removal, private initiatives instituted by a range of substate actors in conjunction with ISPs have
been much more successful. But the activities of individual hacktivists raise a number of important
issues relating to limits on speech and who can and should institute these limits. The capacity of
private political and economic actors to bypass the democratic process and to have materials they find
politically objectionable erased from the Internet is a matter for concern. Such endeavours may, in
fact, cause us to think again about legislation, not just in terms of putting controls in place—perhaps,
for example, outlawing the posting and dissemination of beheading videos—but also writing into law
more robust protections for radical political speech.[/size]
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