The Web’s Role in Terrorism May Be Overstated

The Internet might be the best and cheapest way to spread an idea, but its role in furthering terrorism has been overestimated by Western governments, says a new study by the London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence.

The report, “Countering Online Radicalization: A Strategy for Action,” says that “any strategy that relies on reducing the availability of content alone is bound to be crude, expensive and counterproductive. Radicalization is largely a real-world phenomenon that cannot be dealt with simply by ‘pulling the plug.’”

Its authors say that removing or filtering Web sites doesn’t curb online terrorist activities because the practice is too expensive and only addresses one outlet–the Internet–of extremism, while terrorist networks are created and nurtured offline. There’s also no real way to curb the “conversational” portion of the Internet where extremist ideas are discussed, like chat rooms and instant messaging.

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