UK Government Prepares To Block Extremist Websites
The UK government is preparing to block sites that promote terrorism and extremism
The UK government has announced plans for the blacklisting of websites on terrorism and extremism grounds.
Home secretary Theresa May said the measure is part of the government’s revised counter-terrorism strategy, and is designed to deny access from public buildings to websites that feature unlawful material.
She made the announcement in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Revised Prevent Strategy
“In counter-terrorism policy, it will require an effective strategy to tackle radicalisation in this country and overseas. That is why, last year, I launched a review of the existing counter-radicalisation strategy known as Prevent,” she told the Commons.
Prevent was originally launched in 2007 by the Labour Government to stop the growth of home-grown terrorism.
During her speech, May also admitted that millions of pounds have been wasted by the previous government on overseas anti-extremism projects that failed to produce any security benefits to the UK.
She also promised to spend more on identifying threats in prisons, universities and the health service as part of the Government’s revised Prevent strategy, which May launched on Tuesday.
URL Blocking List
This includes a “national blocking list” of violent and unlawful websites, so that they cannot be accessed by people in schools, colleges and libraries.
This blocking list was outlined in a lengthy Home Office strategy report, that explains the revised Prevent strategy.
“Internet filtering across the public estate is essential. We want to ensure that users in schools, libraries, colleges and Immigration Removal Centres are unable to access unlawful material,” said the report. “We will continue to work closely with DfE, BIS, the CTIRU, Regional Broadband Consortia and the filtering industry. We want to explore the potential for violent and unlawful URL lists to be voluntarily incorporated into independent national blocking lists, including the list operated by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).”
“We… believe the CTIRU (Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit) can play a significant role in developing an unlawful URL blocking list for use across the public estate,” the report said.
Scratching The Surface
And it seems that so far the CTIRU has removed material from the Internet (presumably from UK-based servers) 156 times within 15 months.
It also warned that there are many more websites with terrorist content, and admitted that the UK has no system in place to help gauge how effective the filtering was.
“We do not yet have a filtering product which has been rolled out comprehensively across Government Departments, agencies and statutory organisations and we are unable to determine the extent to which effective filtering is in place in schools and public libraries,” the report said. “Given the scale of the challenge, the inception of CTIRU was late (and we have no data at all on the number of interventions made before it was created) and the number of referrals to the CTIRU is still not yet sufficient: the numbers of websites which have been disrupted so far is a fraction of the problem. Many countries are not sufficiently seized of the threat posed by terrorist use of the internet.”
The UK’s proposed method of tackling the online threat comes after the European Union proposed a “great firewall” to ring fence Europe and block ‘illicit contents’ on a continental scale.
The UK approach is to block access in public insitutions such as schools and libraries, unlike China which strictly controls its citizens’ access to blogs, news websites and social networking services.
Indeed in January the Chinese government boasted that its notorious “Great Firewall” had deleted 350 million pieces of ‘harmful information’.