Representatives of the EU's 27 member states formally agreed today to harmonize their respective countries' definitions of criminally prosecutable acts of terrorism by expanding them to include three new types of crimes: "public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, [terrorist] recruitment, and training for terrorism." The definition of "public provocation" was especially controversial, and it encompasses content posted on the Internet, including not only direct incitements to violence but also terrorist propaganda and bomb-making expertise.
As a timely follow-up to the recent news that the UK has jailed 6 men for publicly supporting terrorism through speech, the EU has legally declared that internet support of terrorism is also a crime. This is a severe blow to freedom of speech advocates everywhere.
Terrorists are using the internet to spread their message. I don't deny this at all. The problem with making that act illegal is the definition of who a 'terrorist' is. I heartily submit that this definition is by no means concrete enough to make their support illegal.
Al-Queda is a terrorist organization. Banning their internet activities probably enhances our security. Is Hamas a terrorist organization? They are also a political group. Should be ban them? What about PETA? Should their website be taken off-line?
Fortunately, there is still good news. Although the EU has passed this law, they have not really provided a means of enforcing it. Though the paper precedent is on the books, it does not look like it can be acted on … yet.