A workshop on terrorist organizations and the Internet was organized for the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), and according to the university's Netvision Institute for Internet Studies (NIIS) and the Interdisciplinary Center for Technology Analysis and Forecasting the study of the web activity of terrorist organizations, reveals that outfits like the Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad, and al-Qaeda all have websites hosted by popular American Internet service providers -- the same companies that most of us use every day.
"These websites hosted in America are targeting Muslim mothers in America, Canada, the U.K. and all over the world, convincing them that being a 'Shahid' or a suicide bomber is particularly good and very important for their sons," says Professor Niv Ahituv of the NIIS.
Available in English, Arabic, Spanish and other languages, the websites also provide tutorials on bomb building and enlist impressionable American and British Muslim women and men into a life of terror activity.
According to the study, the Islamic Jihad operates 15 websites in Arabic and English, hosted by both U.S. and Canadian companies. Hamas operates 20 websites in eight languages, a portion of which are based in the U.S and Canada, while Hezbollah operates 20 websites, also hosted by companies in the U.S. and Canada.
The FBI has shut down a few websites, but American law prevents the closure of most, says Professor Ahituv.
Terrorists could coordinate a 9/11-scale attack via these websites, he warns.
There are, however, some people who believe that leaving those websites intact is desired in order to monitor content, trends and policy. It is hard to tell which side is right, adds Professor Ahituv.
An issue of great concern is that terrorist organizations are using the Internet to bypass the role of the established press, he notes.
"Since those organizations do not possess TV stations, radio stations and printed press outlets, they use the Internet to impart their views and events to the public and to the media," he concludes.