EU Security Chief Says Searches For Bomb Making Should Be Blocked

Web search for bomb recipes should be blocked: EU from Reuters reports Franco Frattini, the European Union’s Justice & Security Commissioner, would like to somehow block searches that might help terrorists from finding sites about making bombs.

Frattini is expected to deliver his proposal for EU states to consider adopting in early November.

Frattini explained:

Frankly speaking, instructing people to make a bomb has nothing to do with the freedom of expression, or the freedom of informing people.

The right balance, in my view, is to give priority to the protection of absolute rights and, first of all, right to life.

Each EU country will be involved in the plan to block out these bomb-making searches and web sites.

Postscript From Danny: I can appreciate Frattini’s concern, but you have to think he’s about to learn how absurd his proposal is, if he tries to implement it in any way as the story reports. Consider:

“I do intend to carry out a clear exploring exercise with the private sector … on how it is possible to use technology to prevent people from using or searching dangerous words like bomb, kill, genocide or terrorism,” Frattini told Reuters.

Seriously — like he’s going to block people from searching on “dangerous words” like “genocide.” So will school children trying to learn about, sadly, the many genocides over time be barred from doing educational searches? Would I be violating some future EU law if I searched about a bombing attempt, as I did back in June when I wondered about a bomb in London that was rigged near an area I had been at?

Words on their own have no particular meaning. And even words entered into a search box express no certain intent. Someone searching for “bomb making” might very well not be trying to make a bomb but instead seeking to determine if others are posting such material.

In addition, I once spoke with the head of a a child pornography fighting team in the UK on the challenges his group faced, given that those looking for and posting child porn have evolved a “safe” set of terms that don’t reflect the true nature of what they are looking for.

I doubt he’ll succeed on the blocking searches front. Aside from that, he would like to have sites with such information removed from the web. Some countries such as Germany already have existing laws that cover this.

Certainly that’s a better route to go — removing a site from a particular search engine doesn’t mean it can’t be found via another one. But remove the site from the web, and no search engine can find it. The fact that the information will likely still leak out on the web through other sites is a challenge / debate I’ll leave for others. I just know that blocking searches isn’t going to do what he thinks to be a solution.

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Legal: Censorship

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://www.elixirsystems.com Jordan Hughes

    I don’t think that is at all an unreasonable request. I realize that blocking one type (i.e. bomb making) of search will cause groups of all kinds to call for blocking of the various topics that they have deemed harmful to society. However, searching for ‘bomb making’ is a pretty blatant acknowldgement that the searcher is looking to blow something or someone up. If that search is made more difficult, then maybe a couple of lives could be saved here and there.

  • http://www.jehochman.com JEHochman

    Let’s block bomb making, illegal weapons, hijacking instructions, car bomb instructions, kidnapping instructions and all the other evil things we can think of while we’re at it…

    What’s going to happen when 8,000 or 80,000 keywords eventually become taboo. “Diesel” and “Nitrogen fertilizer” can be used for bomb making. Should we block those? Who’s going to decide?

    This idea is designed by a cynical politician to appeal to the public while serving no useful purpose. We need to resist this totalitarian rubbish.

  • http://sethf.com/anticensorware/ Seth Finkelstein

    Don’t write him off as an idiot based on a half-baked news report.

    I’ll assume the guy is talking about some very serious proposals to have search engines participate in national blacklists.

    I just wrote a somewhat related column on this about Australia’s censorware plan, which ALREADY includes bans on “detailed instruction in crime”, and talks about “terrorism and cyber-crime sites”.

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    I did say if he tries to implement it as the story reports. It could be describing what he was talking about incorrectly. Sadly, though, I’ve seen too many politicians make really stupid, incorrect statements about how search engines do or should work that are like this.

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/mar/29/comment.newmedia Seth Finkelstein

    It turns out this guy has been talking about this sort of censorship for a while now.

    Check out an extensive question-and-answers about it here:

    http://p10.hostingprod.com/@spyblog.org.uk/blog/2006/10/response_from_the_european_commission_regarding_the_policy_of_censoring_terroris.html

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