New report calls on UK Government to be tougher on online terrorism

deep web henry jackson society
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A report from the Henry Jackson Society says British government must do more fight terrorists on the deep web

deep web henry jackson society
Credit: Wikicommons

An influential foreign policy think tank has called for the UK Government to take tougher action on online extremism, in a report published on Sunday.

The authors say that some “areas of the web”, including the deep web and the Darknet, “have become a safe haven for Islamic State to plot its next attack.”

The research published by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) suggests that the British government should create an “Internet Regulation Body” and increase funding to “build intelligence capital on the Darknet”.

The HJS report suggests that terrorists are using encrypted apps such as Telegram to communicate, drawing some sympathisers from social media sites into Darknet forums for recruitment and indoctrination, building propaganda reservoirs out of reach of governments and tech companies, and using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to fund terrorist activities.

The deep web is distinct from the surface web, which contains information available through familiar search engines like Google and Yahoo. It holds 400 times more information, provides users with greater anonymity, and is harder access. A tiny fraction of the deep web is comprised of the Darknet – a highly unregulated part of the internet where users enjoy optimum anonymity.

Content on the Darknet ranges from secret communication between human rights activists, to illicit drug and weapons markets, hitman services and extremist forums.

In a speech given in February, Home Secretary Amber Rudd claimed that the 5 terror attacks which struck the UK in 2017, killing 57, had an “online component”, lamenting “remote radicalisation.”

The Manchester arena bomber was alleged to have used YouTube to learn bomb making, and the Home Office found that IS used more than 400 online platforms to spread propaganda in 2017.

A number of young Britons who have left to join IS in the Middle East are said to have been radicalised online.

Despite these apparent problems, the report is likely to draw criticism from some quarters.

Freedom House, an independent civil liberties watchdog released a report in 2015, describing internet surveillance in the UK as “undemocratic, unnecessary and – in the long run – intolerable.”

That same year, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal said publicly that the UK intelligence agency had been illegally collecting bulk data for 17 years. An EU court also declared that the UK’s data retention rules imposed on internet providers “cannot be justified” within a democracy.

Despite the criticism, the government passed the Investigatory Powers Act – otherwise known as the Snoopers Charter – in 2016. The legislation authorised bulk surveillance in the UK and was described by The United Nations special rapporteur on privacy as “disproportionate”.

This trend of increasing surveillance appears likely to continue, raising concerns over free speech.

Around 27% of the World’s internet users live in countries where arrests have been made, of people publishing, sharing and even “liking” Facebook content. Freedom House said in 2017 that internet freedom is declining globally for the 7th consecutive year.