Thursday, January 17, 2008

Radicals on the Internet

The internet is a wonderful thing. It allows social networks to form that bring small numbers of interested people together in ways that were impossible before. So, new mothers with twins, or cancer patients, or coin collectors can virtually meet and converse in a community, representing a real change to the way that people with the same issue or outlook or hobby organise themselves. Unfortunately, this also applies to suicidal people, anorexics, or those deluded by the half-truths of bogus science. It also applies to terrorists. Now, this social shift happened years ago and it has taken years for the government to belatedly wake up to the new dangers of an interconnected world. Some wannabee terrorist can put up a load of inflammatory material on a website, moderate a forum for violent nihilists from across the country and recruit and indoctrinate the vulnerable by remote control. At last something is being done about it, with an announcement by the government that what action can be taken will be taken. Regulating the Internet is very difficult because it crosses frontiers and material that is illegal or offensive in one jurisdiction can be sited in another, and so evade legal action. However, difficulty is no excuse for doing nothing. Let's hope the government doesn't get so far behind the next technology and social trend.

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