Home Office Site To Combat Terrorism And Hate Crimes

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

The Home Office has created a website that allows citizens to report any illegal terrorist, violent extremist, or hate crime content they encounter whilst online

Fresh after the discovery that the British government has closed more than half of its websites comes the news that the Home Office has created a new one, which will allow citizens to report suspicious Internet activity to the authorities.

The “reporting” website is in actual fact a dedicated Directgov page. According to the Home Office, it includes “a form for people to report suspected terror-related and violent extremist websites to the police.”

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“The pilot scheme aims to make the Internet a more hostile environment for terrorists and violent extremists who seek to exploit modern technology,” said the Home Office. “If a website meets the threshold for illegal content, officers can exercise powers under section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006 to take it down.”

The government is urging people to report if they encounter online any terrorism-related material. This includes “bomb-making instructions; guides to making poisons; instructions on how to make weapons; and guides to targets.”

Beyond terrorism, the site allows for the reporting of other types of offensive material such as violent extremist content, including videos of beheadings with messages of ‘glorification’ or praise for the attackers, and speeches or essays calling for racial or religious violence.

The site is also hoping to snare those urging “racial or religious violence”, which includes any content of violence against people due to their race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Apparently any reports filed will be funnelled to a special police team within the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), for investigation.

“We want to protect people who may be vulnerable to violent extremist content and will seek to remove any unlawful material,” said the Security Minister Lord West. “This is also about empowering individuals to tell them how they can make a civic challenge against material that they find offensive, even if it is not illegal.

“The Internet is not a lawless forum and should reflect the legal and accepted boundaries of society,” he added.

The webpage will also reportedly advise people how to safeguard themselves from offensive material by using filter software or by reporting it to a website administrator.

Last August, the government called on technology experts and scientists to help identify emerging threats from terrorists who seek to harness new developments in IT and other technologies.

It comes at a time of more and more politically-motivated cyber-attacks, for example the distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks against Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites, which was linked to the conflict between Russia and Georgia back in August 2008.

More recently, Google threatened to pull out of China on 12 January in light of a cyber-attack in December which it claimed originated from China. The Chinese government refuted accusations that it was involved in cyber-attacks against Western companies.