Spreading terrorism around the world and in the United States relies on one essential tool — the internet.
Most Jihadi websites use forums, chat rooms, and blogs to aid terrorists in recruitment, weapons training, and bomb making techniques. Their webpage mastheads boast slogans in Arabic such as “Kill the Americans Wherever They Are.” The Washington Post reported that the Fort Dix Six “came together because of a shared infatuation with internet images of jihad, or holy war,” and other reports confirmed that Jihadist websites influenced the planned attack on JFK airport and attempted bombings in the UK.
Still, the most puzzling aspect of online jihad is that American internet service providers (ISPs) or domain name registrars often remain ignorant of them — and worse — some that become aware of the terrorist-related sites don’t take action to block them.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has been compiling and distributing information about websites that are being used by insurgents and others fighting against American troops in Iraq. Though language barriers keep American web hosting companies in the dark about the radical material they are enabling, MEMRI says that once these companies are approached with the translations MEMRI provides, “almost all of them immediately take down the sites.”
Even large companies like Google are included on MEMRI’s list. HUMAN EVENTS contacted Google to learn more about company policy when it comes to websites such as these.
“Google Blogger prohibits certain kinds of content from being hosted on its servers, such as the encouragement of physical violence or racist speech. When we are notified of the existence of content that violates our terms of service, we act quickly to review it and determine whether it violates these policies. If we determine that it does, we remove it immediately,” said a Google spokesperson.
Sites attributed to Google Blogger were no longer active after the MEMRI packets were released, but a few smaller ISPs still had certain sites up and running.
In some cases ISP representatives told HUMAN EVENTS that they could not discuss the matter at all, others handed over information retorting that the site in question was “still active because it was under investigation from the US government.”
Should online jihad should be wiped out completely or existing sites left active in order for U.S. officials to monitor? Should these companies be sharing delicate information with reporters perhaps hindering monitoring capabilities? Lt. General Thomas McInerney said that the internet has been playing a crucial role in aiding terrorism for quite some time now. “I think these websites are a major part of terrorist communications capabilities and should be selectively eliminated as we desire.”
Layered Technologies Inc. located in Frisco TX was notified last week of the Alam Al-Romansiyya forum they are hosting. “Are you experiencing some kind of spamming or hacking?” the company’s representative asked. After explaining again that it was not a matter of spam but of aiding and abetting the enemy, Layered Technologies Inc. assured me that they had no idea that the site existed. The representative said my inquiry may receive a faster response if I filled out an online "abuse report.” She did not ask me for a web address and the site is still active today.
Just last week a New York City Police Department report (Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat) said that “The internet, with its thousands of extremist web sites and chat-rooms, is a virtual incubator of its own. In fact, many of the extremists began their radical conversion while researching or just surfing in the cyber-world.”
A National Intelligence Estimate released mid July said that “the spread of radical internet sites, increasingly aggressive anti U.S. rhetoric and actions and the growing number of radical self generating cells in Western countries indicate that the radical and violent segment of the West’s Muslim population is expanding, including in the United States.”
MEMRI says that “by exerting the necessary efforts, it’s possible within 6-12 months to completely shut down these sites or to harass them enough so as to impair their capability to influence their audience.”
“One of the most important Jihadist forums in recent years — due to our project — has been removed,” said Yigal Carmon, President of MEMRI.
ISPs — at least the American ISPs and those in nations who are our allies — have an affirmative obligation to search for and remove these websites.
This is not akin to removing offensive content: it’s about hindering those who are planning to commit acts of terror. Think of it this way, if terrorists were using your office or home to plan terrorist acts and you had the power to evict them, wouldn’t it be your obligation to do so?
Correction: HUMAN EVENTS has removed Layered Technologies from the list of ISPs hosting jihadist websites as a result of further information received from the company. We regret the error. Unfortunately, the Alam Al-Romansiyya forum has apparently found a new home on the internet. We intend to continue to follow this story.