British MPs call for Internet control

The British Parliament turned its focus to abuse and regulation of the Internet in a Question-Answer session on Monday in efforts to tackle terrorism following the murder of a serving soldier.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi, Westminster,
Published : 3 June 2013, 03:24 PM
Updated : 4 June 2013, 03:07 AM
The discussion followed a statement by Prime Minister David Cameron, who listed measures taken such as closing down websites, taking down thousands of terrorism material from the Internet and blocking hundreds more which were hosted overseas.

A former Labour minister suggested ISPs and search engines such as Google needed to be regulated.

"Internet service providers such as BSkyB and search engines like Google are far too laid back about removing extremist content," said Keith Vaz, now Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee.

"Today, for example, it's still possible to hear Anwaral-Awlaki on Youtube," he said.

The Prime Minister spoke on Britain's relations with the EU and the murder of the serving British soldier in Woolwich, south London, by Muslim extremists on May 22, triggering questions from 62 MPs from across the benches that he answered in terse responses.

His written statement was followed by one from the Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband and then the questions from the backbenches; the whole process lasted just 85 minutes.

Rushanara Ali, MP from Bangladeshi-dominated Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, pointed out that establishments such as mosques had been the targets of attack by extremist elements in the British society since the Woolwich murder. Several other Muslim MPs raised the issue.

Ali, the first MP of Bangladeshi origin, asked the Prime Minister "to look at the impact of the rising level of attacks on Muslim communities, including mosques, and the role of the (right-wing extremist group) English Defence League".

"Will the new task force look at proscribing such groups if the evidence suggests that their violent intentions will reinforce conflict in our country?" said Ali in her question to the Prime Minister.

Cameron, who himself is chairing the task force to tackle terrorism, vowed to destroy the process of radicalisation that gave birth to the likes of Allahu Akbar-shouting Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, the killers of Lee Rigby, the British soldier from a nearby army barrack in south London.

"It is as if that for some young people there is a conveyor belt to radicalisation that has poisoned their minds with sick and perverted ideas," Cameron said, despite the fact these people were "born and bred" in Britain.

"When young men born and bred in this country are radicalised and turned into killers, we have to ask some tough questions about what is happening in our country," he said while making sure he did not offend Muslims and assured he would do anything to protect people from all faiths.

"Islam is a religion of peace," the British Prime Minister said and repeated the statement several times in his responses.

“Just as we will not stand for those who pervert Islam to preach extremism, neither will we stand for groups like the English Defence League who try to demonise Islam and stoke up anti-Islam hatred by bringing violence and disorder to our towns and cities," Cameron said.

"We need to dismantle this process at every stage - in schools, colleges, universities, on the internet, in our prisons, wherever it is taking place."

He said his task force, which includes Cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs, would work on new rules for charities or NGOs to prevent them from being a breeding ground for extremists.

Other issues for the task force would be ensuring more support for madrassas to stop radicalisation, keeping an eye on extremist groups in universities as well as those that incite violence and hatred.

Cameron said mosques that sought to expel extremists and employ imams with a better understanding of British culture would be supported.

Keith Vaz complained recommendations from his committee went unheeded. "A year ago the Home Affairs Select Committee in its report into the Roots of Radicalisation recommended the establishment of a code of conduct. However, nothing has been done."

Speaking to later at London's iconic The Red Fort restaurant, Vaz, a former Foreign Office Minister, admitted that he did not yet know who would ask providers or search engines to remove questionable content or who would decide which content would be deemed unsuitable. He said he was going to meet representatives of Google "very soon".

But the Prime Minister, while commending the work of the Vaz-led committee, defended his government, citing websites already closed down, 5,700 items of terrorism material taken down from the Internet and almost 1,000 more items blocked when they were hosted overseas.

Since 2011, Cameron claimed, more hate preachers like Egyptian Abu Hamza had been excluded from the UK than ever.

"The responsibility for this horrific murder (of the British soldier) lies with those who committed it but we should do all we can to tackle the poisonous ideology that is perverting young minds," he said as the two murderers -- Adebolajo, 28, and Adebowale, 22, had been charged and remanded in custody hours earlier.

"This is not just a job for the security services and police, it is work for us all," Cameron insisted.