Tuesday, September 18, 2007

EU commissioner: Stop Web searches about ____, ____, and ____

Franco Frattini, the EU commissaire for justice and security, whom we have encountered before, wants to find a technological means to prohibit Web searches for "dangerous" words. (Tip of the hat: The Croydonian.)

As quoted in Le Monde, Commissar — excuse me, Commissaire Fratini said (my translation):
I have the firm intention to undertake a study with the private sector … on the technological means to prevent people from using [the Web] and searching for dangerous words like "bomb," "kill," "genocide," or "terrorism."
He is quick to reassure us that he does not intend to block discussions or opinions, only to knock one prop out from terrorist networks who use the Internet to diffuse specific information such as how to build bombs.

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This proposal may or may not be the thin end of the wedge that would eventually culminate in EU censorship of the Web. I'd probably take his assurance at face value, had we not seen too many initiatives in the direction of suppressing free speech in Europe, most recently the prohibition of the anti-Islamization demo in Brussels.

In any case, the idea of a computerized watchdog over Web searches is naive on several levels.

This may be down to my ignorance of advanced information technology, but I find it hard to see how any purely automated program can determine the intention of a Web site. If you block phrases like "bomb making," you will eliminate many innocent, and possibly important, discussions of — for example — the feasibility of terrorists creating "suitcase nukes." Just making the verboten search terms more complex, such as "instructions for disguising a 40-megaton nuclear device as a cocktail swizzle stick," is bound to leave out other possibilities, such as "instructions for making an atomic bomb look like an American flag lapel pin."

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Beyond that, any such technology would be completely useless in the face of simple codes. Any reasonably bright terrorist could easily devise substitute words that would be known to cell members and others with explosive tempers. Military forces have done this since battles were fought with swords. The daring but failed World War II operation at Arnhem in the Netherlands (the famous "bridge too far") was called Operation Market Garden. If there had been an Internet at the time, would a German computer program have pounced on "market garden"?

But the most naive assumption of all is that stopping the spread of accursed information on the Internet can substitute for preventing the people who would use it from entering the country. A terrorist — a violent jihadist, let us say — wants to blow up himself and infidel commuters from Twickenham on the London Underground. It would put him to considerable inconvenience if he was back home in Wahabistan without a petition to Allah of getting into the U.K.

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But of course the EU elite have hypnotized themselves into believing that immigration is the lifeblood of modern society, and that keeping those of a certain religio-political ideology from slapping down a moth-eaten passport at Heathrow and proceeding to swan around Britain would be … wait for it! … discriminatory. Gasp. Quick, bring the smelling salts.

I don't think Commissaire Frattini is too stupid to know this. Depend on it, he even realizes that no technology can stop the sharing of pernicious knowledge. But he is a politician, and master of the art of seeming to tackle a problem without committing himself to any plan that could blow back on him. And in today's Europe, that is any plan that would offend the Muslim constituency whose numbers are ever growing, ever growing.

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Tanstaafl said...

If they really wanted to do something about terrorism they'd eavesdrop rather than trying to shut down their communications.

The EUreaucrats aren't stupid - as with their "hate laws" they have their eyes on a longer term prize. Banning discussion of Islam, immigration, globalization, and anything else that might gum up their agenda by alerting ordinary people to what's really going on in the world.

In the near future we defiant few will have our online statements dug up and used against us. We'll be hauled off to the gulag. Or worse.

Rick Darby said...

In the near future we defiant few will have our online statements dug up and used against us. We'll be hauled off to the gulag. Or worse.


I understand what you're saying, but don't give in to despair. That only helps the enemy.