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Internet freedom under threat after Woolwich murder

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The fallout from the Woolwich murder has seen a wave of revulsion and outright panic about the implications of extremism. With Theresa May looking to capitalise on the widespread fear and uncertainty sweeping through British society by passing a raft of new measures, it seems that the ‘Snoopers Charter’ is set to be pressed home. Apparently convinced that you really can legislate against grievance, hatred and inflamed beliefs, the Conservatives are weighing up an alliance with Labour over the issue in a bid to circumvent the Liberal Democrats who firmly oppose such drastic infringements on privacy.

Meanwhile, Eric Schmidt the executive chairman of Google, was asked to act to take down ‘extremist’ websites from the search engine during a question and answer session at the Hay on Wye literary festival. MPs, including the Labour politician Paul Flynn, demanded that the internet giant prevent searches listing sites for groups such as the Islamist organisation Al Shabaab and other such outfits.

Schmidt acknowledged the concerns but vowed to continue indexing the sites. "We cannot prima facie identify evil and take it down”, he said. We have taken the decision that information if it's legal, even if it's despicable, will be indexed."

He went on to argue that overground internet activity actually helps detect and track extremists.

"Extremists are not clever enough not to be found out. They leave a digital trail the police can follow," he said, after an interview with the mathematician Marcus de Sautoy.

The real elephant in the room here is the darknet. Amazing how you never hear about that from politicians, mainstream commentators and shrill voices with an agenda. Quite simply – the darknet is the hidden internet which is totally untraceable, anonymous and populated almost entirely by terrorists, paedophiles, those in the drug market, hackers and intelligence agents. That’s where the real business of terrorism goes down. Not on Google. And yet somehow we are all being threatened with ever diminishing freedom on the web for a problem that actually exists somewhere else. Ah politics.

Written by Cyrus Bozorgmehr - Google+ Profile - More articles by Cyrus Bozorgmehr

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