ealing with sites that promote violence, sex, cruelty, and extreme groups like al-Qaeda on the Internet is a concern for governments around the world. There is no universal legislation that clearly defines ways of dealing with sites that violate the laws. Pakistan has thousands of such websites, which inspire youth towards violence who fall prey to attractive incentives. Every day hundreds of Indian websites are hacked by Pakistani hackers and the so-called cyber war has given a jolt to a crucial database of the government. There are many business houses, corporate sectors, unaware of this threat and the fact that someone has penetrated into their machine. There is always a hidden treat from a neighbouring country. Nowadays, even China is doing the same and they are fully equipped with their cyber army to attack Indian domains. Unfortunately, if neighbouring country hacks our website and steals our intellectual property then it is not considered as a crime in our country. However, if Indian patriotic hacker or for that matter any hacker teaches them the same lesson by hacking their websites, then they are prosecuted under stringent laws. Crippled judiciary and inefficient police have always failed to stop online crime. When this is the case, then why not hackers groups in India such as Indian cyber shoulders should be allowed to deface such sites and prevent terror, violence, and crime?
The issue of the promotion of violence and terrorism on the Internet has always garnered the attention of security services. However, interest in it has increased dramatically since a failed plot to blow up a commercial US airliner in December 2006 at the hands of young Nigerian Umar Farooq. He was influenced by Anwar Awlaki, the Yemeni-American activist who is currently hiding in Yemen from where he promotes al-Qaeda in his online sermons. Recently, the Secretary-General of International Police (Interpol), Ronald K. Noble, hinted at the difficulty that security services encounter in tackling this type of sites on the Internet, the number of extremist websites rose from just 12 sites in 1998 to 14500 sites in 2010. The jihadis use internet discussion forums focused on Arabic-language forums since they are the principal platform promoting the ideology of al-Qaeda. This is attributed to the organisation not having an official site speaking for it, relying instead on sites that promote and publish its statements and the statements of its branches around the world. Some of the most prominent forums that promote al-Qaeda (topped by the al-Fallujah and Shumoukh al-Islam forums) and the number of participants, noting that there are two different trends of sites adherent to al-Qaeda, the first is the traditionalists’ trend, which includes participants in the forums of those who follow the ideology expressed by al-Qaeda leaders such as Osama Bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. These appear to be mostly people eager to participate in what they see as an act of “jihad” without actually learning about differing views that could enable them to change their convictions, or at least re-consider them.
There are now about 15,600 Web sites spreading al Qaeda’s ideology worldwide, and 1000 more are appearing each year. These kinds of websites are a challenge to Information Technology and National Security and it is difficult to track most of the sites as these hardcore al Qaeda sites often change addresses to avoid detection or start up again elsewhere once infiltrated.
One member wrote of suicide missions: “If you can blow dozens of people up at the same time, great, absolutely great.”
In another vile message, a member praised a beheading video of British hostage Ken Bigley. It said, “I like the beheading videos of the prisoners of war – especially the Daniel Pearl and Ken Bigley one.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government agreed to fund the group’s film on problems faced by UK Muslims. We can’t prevent violent extremism if we aren’t prepared to talk about the issue. Pakistan is no stranger to state-sanctioned censorship. Since the 1950s, successive governments, both military and civilian, have taken pains to ensure that the media has been scrutinised, censored and harassed.’
Even as the twenty-first century has dawned upon Pakistan, the cycle continues. In 2009, the Pakistan government removed videos, of a Pakistan Army officer allegedly beating a Swat resident, from YouTube. Later on, videos of President Zardari saying “shut up” to a supporter at a public gathering were erased off of YouTube. In 2009, following a petition in the courts, the Lahore High Court slapped a ban on Facebook, which was later lifted. Even www.thepersecution.org, which documents crimes committed against the Ahmadi sect, is routinely banned by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), which makes it even all the more surprising that with such stringent control over the media and the internet, the Pakistan government has so far, turned a blind eye to the abundance of religious hate material that is floating around and readily available on the internet.
(The latter part of the editorial will continue on Sunday.)
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