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Thread: Countering online radicalisation: Is government censorship effective?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Countering online radicalisation: Is government censorship effective?

    Tim Stevens, co-author of a report called Countering Online Radicalisation and Dr Peter Neumann from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London look at the challenge of tackling online radicalisation and support for terrorist groups, and ask whether government censorship is an effective solution.

    This is a short podcast for The Independent newspaper and an interesting summary: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion...e-1700048.html

    The original report, from May 2009 is: http://www.icsr.info/news-item.php?id=21

    davidbfpo

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    And for those that do not know, Tim Stevens maintains a very interesting blog at http://ubiwar.com

    I highly recommend it!
    Drew Conway
    Ph.D. Student
    Department of Politics, New York University
    agc282@nyu.edu
    http://www.drewconway.com/zia

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default A narrow observation on censorship

    A quick reading has Tim Stevens mentioning in his postings that Brits are more sensitive to some U-Tube postings of folks brandishing guns.

    With both friends and family living in the UK I understand that our US death penalty is not liked in UK, but the reality of guns being used to kill folks, including in UK, is a reality of life.

    As the police in UK have to have back up weapon equipped units due to the sad reality of the real world, when or if news censorship crosses the line to duck the reality of use of weapons by terrorists, as well as gangsters and thugs of other stripes, it would seem that this sort of sensitivity/censorship is harmful to dealing with world and UK realities.

    Just a quick surface reaction on this one point gleaned from a quick read of some of Stevens postings.

    George Singleton

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    Registered User Tim Stevens's Avatar
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    Default Re: A narrow observation on censorship

    George,

    If I read you right, then I agree. I don't think censorship serves anyone well and I have repeatedly said that in public to people who sometimes need to hear it.

    The issue of YouTube is different. The British sensitivity is a cultural thing. We do not have the same experience as the US as regards constitutional protection of free speech, which is merely a tradition here. Consequently, protection is offered on an ad hoc and politically expedient basis, and is consequently often abused. I said on my blog that I think platforms like YouTube should show more spine and refuse to take down videos just because someone claims to be 'offended' by what is usually pretty innocuous content. They have overhauled their reporting procedures, at least in the US, and should continue to refine them to community advantage.

    I might not like what people say but I defend their right to say it, short of illegality. In the UK, 'glorification of terrorism' is an appalling piece of legislative nonsense and should never have made it on to the statute books. Unfortunately, we're stuck with it, despite warnings from the EU and UN that the Terrorism Act (2006) is a flawed document potentially prejudicial to human rights. One of those rights is the freedom of speech and expression...

    Tim

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Default Selective views in behalf of some censorship

    The self evident truths in life are the best answer to the phoney Internet postings of terrorists and their fellow travelers.

    It has taken quite a long time but now a growing number of Northern Pakistan tribes are rising up and fighting the Taliban and al Qaida. This has been enabled in large part, my view, by the recent and still strongly on going Pak military attacks on the Taliban and al Qaida in what I surely hope is fight to their death, the death of the violent Taliban and all al Qaida types.

    Use of Pakitani helicopters in past two days to support ground ops by tribal militias against the Taliban is very encouraging to me, at least.

    One area of censorship I do support, however, to be clear. Attemtping to spread racial and ethnic hatred should be flatly "shut down" as in blacked out in my book. No reason to use the excuse of free speech for that type of human garbage thinking and language.

    In particuarl I note of late sputtering on various Pakhtun websites (worldwide) against European national laws disallowing talk and promotion of Nazism and ani-Semitism...5 years in prison for such stuff. Fully agree with this specific style and type of censorship, as it has helped clean up Europe ever since WW II.

    Cheers, otherwise.

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    Registered User Tim Stevens's Avatar
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    Default Re: Selective views in behalf of some censorship

    A couple of quick comments:

    One area of censorship I do support, however, to be clear. Attemtping to spread racial and ethnic hatred should be flatly "shut down" as in blacked out in my book. No reason to use the excuse of free speech for that type of human garbage thinking and language.
    Yes, but only where this is supported by existing, tested legislation. Just because people don't like Islamists is no reason to close their forums. The First Amendment to the Constitution does not protect the sorts of things you're talking about, nor do the laws in most countries.

    In particuarl I note of late sputtering on various Pakhtun websites (worldwide) against European national laws disallowing talk and promotion of Nazism and ani-Semitism...5 years in prison for such stuff. Fully agree with this specific style and type of censorship, as it has helped clean up Europe ever since WW II.
    I'm no fan of that type of legislation, and it's also questionable whether it works. However, I would say that this is perhaps the exception rather than the rule. Also, citizens in those countries are very much behind those laws - there is a public mandate for them, and I therefore support them. There would not be the public appetite for most other types of expression, save for paedophilia.

    Tim

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Tim:

    You may want to do a little historical research. These Europen individual country national laws exist as part of the end of WW II studied fix to hate crimes and left over Nazism attitudes, being a carry forward of the thrust of the Nuremburg War Trials. Focus then and now is to perpetuate the truthful horrible history of the Holocaust and never again allow such awful anti-Semitic hate mongering in their nation(s). A prison term of 5 years for attempting to promote or spread anti-Semitism and revisionist history related to same is perhaps too lenient.

    On the other topic you mentioned, regarding First Amendment Rights, foreigners outside the US are not entitled to the benefits of the US Constitution unless living inside the US as US citizens. Foreigners inside the US have limited rights vs. citizens of the US, otherwise, what is the value and purpose of US citizenship in the first place?

    You are mistaken to allude to folks being anti-Islamic. Many people, and I am one, are anti-terrorist. I/we have Muslim friends both here in the US and overseas, in Pakistan to be specific. Their views and mine/ours are the same when it comes to opposing terrorism, radicals, and the use of thuggery and murder.

    In the case of Paksitan, the use of illegal FM radio broadcasts to coordinate murder and mayhem is a legal issue there, inside Pakistan, and it is a wartime issue there. Pakistan's efforts to control and stop broadcasting banditry has nothing to do with freedom of speech in the USA whatsoever, but fighting a terrible ideology which "attempts to use" the label of a religion to murder, suppress, and hold down grassroots decent Muslim citizens who want a better life for themselves and their children.

    Perhaps you might take time to note your premises as you seem to have prejudged or formed an opinion which you put on SWJ as a "what do you think" question, suggesting you wanted a defacto opinion poll? You should of course note that as you are a graduate student in England/UK your perspective is shaped by your national laws and moraes which are not identical with either other European nations nor idential with the laws here in the US.

    I'm no fan of that type of legislation, and it's also questionable whether it works. However, I would say that this is perhaps the exception rather than the rule. Also, citizens in those countries are very much behind those laws - there is a public mandate for them, and I therefore support them. There would not be the public appetite for most other types of expression, save for paedophilia.

    Tim
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 06-11-2009 at 03:17 PM.

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    Council Member Blackjack's Avatar
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    Default Unacceptable and ineffective

    Article 2, Code D'honneur Du Légionnaire


    Chaque légionnaire est ton frère d'arme quelle que soit sa nationalité, sa race, sa religion. Tu lui manifestes toujours la solidarité étroite qui doit unir les membres d'une même famille.


    We discuss some controversial subjects here on SWJ, some topics are outside our comfort zone of others at times. Issues of tribalism, factionalism and religious roles in small wars are a common topic here. It would be a shame if the well informed opinion of one person is seen as hate speech and that person were prosecuted under the law in another nation in absentia. The whole idea of laws against hate speech and banning offensive content are a double edged sword. I do not think this would be an effective tool in combating anything.

    The first amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights does protect those sorts of things. It was specifically designed to protect speech that was inflammatory. Gitlow v. Ney York, Yates v. United States, Brandanburg v. Ohio shows a situations where free speech is not covered. The majority opinion stated that only when words that, "by their very nature, involve danger to the public peace and to the security of the state," is it lawful to suppress their usage. Most items, if not all that are considered hate speech in Europe simply do not meet that criteria in the United States.

    Speech that is not protected, like advocating the violent overthrow of the USG are covered by the Smith Act and other laws. Attempts to regulate communication on the internet have been struck down time and time again in the United States for the same reason the Communications Decency Act were declared unconstitutional. The laws were overly broad and presented difficulties when reconciling them with Article I of the Bill of Rights, enforcement, jurisdiction and a myriad of other things. In the United States blanket statements, though disturbing to the victim are protected under the law. Group libel is also protected under law in the United States. The only exceptions to this is when a person advocates the violent overthrow of the USG, threatens violence or grievous bodily harm, or incites a riot.

    The European Convention on Cybercrime states that "any written material, any image or any other representation of ideas or theories, which advocates, promotes or incites hatred, discrimination or violence, against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as pretext for any of these factors." However, those laws are not accepted, nor acceptable in the United States for several reasons. The NAZI memorabilia matter is mentioned in the thread. It is legal to sell memorabilia and reproductions of NAZI materials in the United States. That is not the case in germany, or France. In fact the policies of these three governments differ to such a degree that the official policy of the USG not extradite individuals who sell NAZI memorabilia online from the United States ,regardless of its criminality in other nations. Another odd example of enforcement difficulties comes form online games from what I hear. They have these Chinese sweat shops companies called gold farmers, who are known to use child labor. It is sort of a hybrid crime and a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. Yet again, unenforceable due to jurisdiction, and cooperation with the country that the crimes took place in. I point these matters out to show the complication of enforcement of national, regional or international law on the internet.

    As some one who has lived in France and went through regularization of situation I can tell you that hate speech laws are used as punching bags typically. Group X says or prints something group Y finds offensive. Group Y files a criminal complaint in the courts. The court battle ensues and a verdict is reached. Group X files counter complaint and another battle in the courts takes place. Rinse repeat ad nauseum! The same appears be the case for internet based crimes so far.
    See things through the eyes of your enemy and you can defeat him.

  9. #9
    Registered User Tim Stevens's Avatar
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    Default eh?

    George,

    If you're not going to play nicely then this thread is finished. I'm going to take the trouble to point out exactly where you're wrong in your assessment. I'm tired of having to correct people who blatantly mispresent what others say/write.

    You may want to do a little historical research. These Europen individual country national laws exist as part of the end of WW II studied fix to hate crimes and left over Nazism attitudes, being a carry forward of the thrust of the Nuremburg War Trials. Focus then and now is to perpetuate the truthful horrible history of the Holocaust and never again allow such awful anti-Semitic hate mongering in their nation(s). A prison term of 5 years for attempting to promote or spread anti-Semitism and revisionist history related to same is perhaps too lenient.
    Yes, George, I've heard of WWII and the Holocaust, and I deeply wish neither had happened. My point re censorship was a generic one. My second point was that I support the measures that these European countries have taken because of their uniquely horrendous experiences during that period. That is the 'exception rather than the rule' approach to censorship. On this issue you may want to do some research of your own and find out how many 'nazi' candidates have been voted in in certain countries and ask yourself whether this censorship really works. That's not a reason for not banning this type of material or expression but it does show that the effects of censorship are somewhat debatable and almost never clear cut.

    On the other topic you mentioned, regarding First Amendment Rights, foreigners outside the US are not entitled to the benefits of the US Constitution unless living inside the US as US citizens. Foreigners inside the US have limited rights vs. citizens of the US, otherwise, what is the value and purpose of US citizenship in the first place?
    Correct. That is why British neo-Nazis and holocaust deniers who's websites are hosted in the US are not protected by the First Amendment, and are prosecuted in the UK as a result. Your comment re the 'value and purpose of US citizenship' is a curious one.

    You are mistaken to allude to folks being anti-Islamic. Many people, and I am one, are anti-terrorist. I/we have Muslim friends both here in the US and overseas, in Pakistan to be specific. Their views and mine/ours are the same when it comes to opposing terrorism, radicals, and the use of thuggery and murder.
    'Anti-Islamic'? Your term, not mine. I used the term 'Islamist' which a quick scan of the voluminous literature on the subject should reveal what I mean. 'Islamic' does not equate to 'Islamist' - the conflation of the two is partly why we're in this mess in the first place.

    In the case of Paksitan, the use of illegal FM radio broadcasts to coordinate murder and mayhem is a legal issue there, inside Pakistan, and it is a wartime issue there. Pakistan's efforts to control and stop broadcasting banditry has nothing to do with freedom of speech in the USA whatsoever, but fighting a terrible ideology which "attempts to use" the label of a religion to murder, suppress, and hold down grassroots decent Muslim citizens who want a better life for themselves and their children.
    Has that comment, while true, got anything to do with what I wrote? No. Sounds like it's a favourite topic of yours, and about which you know far more than me, hence the fact I didn't address it in this thread.

    Perhaps you might take time to note your premises as you seem to have prejudged or formed an opinion which you put on SWJ as a "what do you think" question, suggesting you wanted a defacto opinion poll?
    I'll forgive that on the basis that you don't know me. Those who do, and who read my blog, will know that I'm not a judgemental type and that I'm far happier mulling over an issue than firing off ill-thought missives, particularly on subjects I know little about. And what is this 'de facto opinion poll' thing? I thought we were having a conversation but it's certainly taken a weird turn.

    You should of course note that as you are a graduate student in England/UK your perspective is shaped by your national laws and moraes which are not identical with either other European nations nor idential with the laws here in the US.
    Wow, thanks Teach. I may live on a rock off the coast of Europe with the other monkeys but I like to think that in the numerous comparative situations that arise in academia/life I'd got some idea that things were different elsewhere. Heck, I've even been to France. Guess I know nothing though.

    Anyway, sorry you got the wrong end of the stick.

    Tim

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    Tim,

    Civility is always in order and I believe survives in what I have written.

    I have both family and friends in UK, cousins of three generations now. Separately my Goddaughter, an American married to the American head of a European and African ops for a large US corporation, lives in suburban London. My wife and I were in Europe the end of April, first part of May, and always enjoy our European vacations.

    One of my English cousins is an Oxford PhD living and working in London. Young fellow in his mid-30s.

    Not to dwell on what you might see as miscommunication previously, my mention of illegal FM broadcasting inside Pakistan, to me, is relevant as putting it down is a very direct part of the whole concept of censorship, whereas you have a different defintion of censorship.

    I think in the interest of discussion it is OK to broaden the topic a bit, as communication is communication, being myself an former US television station Promotion Manager from my younger days.

    Yes, but only where this is supported by existing, tested legislation. Just because people don't like Islamists is no reason to close their forums. The First Amendment to the Constitution does not protect the sorts of things you're talking about, nor do the laws in most countries.
    The above quote from you previously is what I was referring to in my previous reply, which I believe you misunderstood. To me, at least, it seems and seemed you jumped to the conclusion when I mentioned anti-Semitic commentary on Pakhtun Internet blog sites that my observation amounts to, your above wording "Just because people don't like Islamists is no reason to close their forums." The forums I referred to are operating in large part out of Canada, in fact. and the "Islamists" I was referring to are a mixture of Taliban Pakhtuns and Pakhtuns who are very specifically anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, using those hateful views to try to encourage violence against "all Jews."

    I am educated by your comments to the effect that some European nations will and do use thier anti-Nazi/anti-Semitism laws to seek prosecution of what may be their nation's citizens broadcasting or writing on the Internet from outside their specific European country in an anti-Semitic manner.

    In a time of actual hot war, which the war on terrorism is today and for the forseeable future I will say that we cannot control al Jazeera )staffed in part by ex-BBC broadcast journalists) as a major outlet for bin Laden and other AQ speakers and videographers from time to time. I have encouraged better use of Voice of America to combat the malarky AQ puts out, as well seeing VOA both TV and radio broadcasts to condemn as the murder videos the Taliban periodically put on the Internet.

    In Pakistan, I was shocked by a Pakistani journalist writing in a Pakistani daily newspaper recently bragging that he had been in the home of a senior North Pakistan area provincial government official who hosted some of the most wanted Taliban leadership there within the past two weeks...same journalist using his column to attack the Government of Pakistan as being "to blame" because a local Pakistani governor met with top Taliban leaders. This is an issue of Pakistani censorship or lack of censorship you might want to include in your discussion as technically the US, UK, and Pakistan are all supposed to be allies, which should include dealing with censorship issues.

    Be interested to read what others have to say as you lay out your additional premise(s) to encourage more theory of censorship vs. practice of censorship dialogue.

    I hope these additional remarks clarify my opinions and in the process nothing personal was or is ever meant.

    George
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 06-12-2009 at 05:22 AM.

  11. #11
    Registered User Tim Stevens's Avatar
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    George,

    No, that's cool. No point talking past each other, I agree. I'd be interested to hear more about Pakistan - perhaps a new thread?

    I think you flag up a very crucial point: between the theory and practice and censorship, where are we? It seems to me that a good starting point is the various international human rights conventions to which most countries are signatory or have ratified.

    For example, the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR). It allows for 'individual freedom of belief, speech, association, freedom of press, right to hold assembly'. It also offers 'protection based on gender, religious, racial or other forms of discrimination' and codifies the right to engage in political activities.

    Liberal theory would also protect these rights as long as they do not infringe upon those same rights as possessed by others. This is actually very similar to certain US constitutional protections and exemptions as mentioned by Blackjack below (for which, thanks for the post!).

    Blackjack also makes the very pertinent observation that 'hate speech' laws in Europe simply don't wash in the US. These laws are often used in ways for which neither the original legislation intended nor which are true to the international rights framework. When Drew originally posted my Ubiwar story about YouTube users in the UK being twitchier than most web users this is part of the same phenomenon. It's almost a case of: we'll try and apply this legislation to anything we don't like. Hence my comment about Islamist forums.

    The difference is that YouTube are capitulating to takedown requests on material that it's really not designed to deal with. Most YouTube spats do not make it to court in the UK, so the laws that actually do protect people are rarely tested. In Europe more generally ###-for-tat legal battles do take place, and these cases degenerate into slanging matches that last for years.

    I should make the point that there are 'vigilante' YouTube groups who make it their business to try and remove any video of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of content or context. YouTube often complies, and these group brag about their glorious role in the 'war on terror'. Puerile and pointless.

    Anyway, practice vs theory. In practice, censorship is often knee-jerk. Something happens and governments and communities suddenly decide that 'something must be done', regardless of any legal or human rights considerations. No cost-benefit analysis, no overrarching strategy, nothing. Just mutterings about security, radicalisation, terrorism and the assumption that someone viewing an IED explosion on video is a hollow shell inevitably to be filled with violence. Sure, there are some who are this passive but most net-actors are exactly that, active consumers of information and capable of making their own minds up. Not all, unfortunately, although it's still only a very small minority.

    All this speaks of complexities that fill whole books and policy documents, as well as the long careers of many academics. We can only scratch the surface here...

    Tim

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    Former Member George L. Singleton's Avatar
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    I should make the point that there are 'vigilante' YouTube groups who make it their business to try and remove any video of insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, regardless of content or context. YouTube often complies, and these group brag about their glorious role in the 'war on terror'. Puerile and pointless.
    I am one of the folks across the pond who take offense to the use of the term "insurgents" vs. use of the terms terrorist, thugs, murderers, etc. Bias works two ways, but the open "manifesto" of both the Taliban and al Qaida is not in doubt.

    What is the law of the land in UK regarding what you see as "vigilante" groups? Curious.

    The Independent View on Internet Censorship
    Posted in ubiwar by Tim Stevens on 9 June 2009
    The Independent is running a video feature on me and Peter Neumann of the ICSR, Countering online radicalisation: Is government censorship effective? It’s also featured on the King’s College London news page. Can’t wait to see how the debate degenerates on The Independent’s comments site…
    This prejudgement of differences of opinion to come in THE INDEPENDENT sounds discouraging of other points of view. What in UK today is the law of the land on censorship, comared to maybe Iran, to be onery on my part?

    More importantly why aren't others on SWJ jumping into this discussion?
    Last edited by George L. Singleton; 06-12-2009 at 12:53 PM.

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