EU seeks to outlaw Internet terrorism incitement

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Brussels, Nov 1: Inciting, recruiting and training for terrorism on the Internet will be made a criminal offence punishable by minimum sentences throughout the European Union under proposals to be adopted next week.

The European Commission will propose expanded EU legislation to fight what it says is growing use of the World Wide Web as a ''virtual training camp'' for terrorists as part of a package of measures to be approved next Tuesday.

In a document seen by the sources, Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini proposes creating an EU offence of ''public provocation to commit a terrorist offence'', that would apply to incitement even if it did not lead to an actual attack.

The offence is defined as ''the distribution, or otherwise making available, of a message to the public, with the intent to incite the commission'' of acts of terrorism.

In a memorandum explaining the proposal, Frattini said the Internet served as one of the principal boosters of the process of radicalisation and recruitment of militants, as well as ''a source of information on terrorist means and methods, thus functioning as a 'virtual training camp'.'' In an effort to assuage civil liberties campaigners, the proposal specifies that the new EU measure may not be used to reduce or restrict the spread of information for scientific, academic or reporting purposes.

The expression of radical, polemical or controversial views in public on sensitive political questions including terrorism also falls outside the definition of ''public provocation to commit terrorist offences'', it said.

The proposal, responding to calls from EU leaders to prevent the misuse of the Internet for terrorist purposes, will be added to the first EU-wide anti-terrorism legislation adopted in 2002 following the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The Commission said the legislation would not impose new burdens or significant costs on the telecommunications industry but would simply lead to an increased use of existing mechanisms under EU laws on data retention and electronic commerce.

Frattini caused consternation in the industry last month by saying he was working on plans to block Web searches for bomb-making instructions and oblige Internet Service Providers to prevent access to sites containing them.

Other measures in next week's package include a proposal for a pan-European air passenger name registration system similar to the US system and an action plan to improve the traceability of explosives, a Commission spokesman said.


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