Web vigilante takes down terror sites

Jul 14, 2008 20:22 | Updated Jul 14, 2008 21:00
By AMY SOBERANO, The Jerusalem Post

The Canadian Internet service provider iWeb recently removed three Web sites powered by Hamas and Hizbullah from their network of subscribers after complaints were filed against the company.

Canadian law designates both Hamas and Hizbullah as terrorist organizations whose operations are barred by law, yet the militant groups were hosted online by a Montreal-based corporation.

The first of the illicit URLs was discovered by Toronto native Jonathan HaLevi while monitoring the Internet under the auspices of the Orient Research Group Ltd. which he co-founded. HaLevi is a senior researcher of the Middle East and Radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

"The Internet is an important tool for terrorist organizations to recruit, instruct, operate cells and build what they call 'The Islamic Nation' to launch the 'jihad against the infidels,'" HaLevi told The Jerusalem Post.

"The Canadian company in this case was not allowed to support them or to give them any services because in Canada, Hizbullah and Hamas are designated as terrorist organizations."

Upon discovering that an official Hamas Web site was being hosted by a Canadian server, HaLevi immediately sent iWeb an e-mail requesting its removal.

The company replied that the Hamas site was purely informational.

"They replied that the Web site is just like CBC [the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation], and didn't at that time acknowledge that the particular Web site was part of Hamas and linked to terrorist attacks," said HaLevi.

After further investigation however, iWeb did concede to remove the Hamas page from their server.

After reporting that Hizbullah may be activating sleeper cells in Canada, CBC became involved in the online controversy. They questioned iWeb about two additional Web sites, one promoting Hizbullah and the other in support of Hamas's militant wing, both of which were eventually taken down.

"We have had known terrorist organizations post Web sites and material on Canadian servers. However, it occurs far less frequently [in Canada] than on American servers," said Michael Etedgui, Education Consultant for the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto, who specializes in locating and removing hate incitement from the Internet.

According to HaLevi, as much as 95% of online activity powered by terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida and Hamas, is hosted by American servers.

"It's amazing because al-Qaida organizations use American infrastructure to promote an ideology of hate against America.... and American companies do nothing about it," he said.

The tremendous difficulty in establishing a direct link between the Web designer and the service provider inhibits the ability of the authorities to file charges.

"Nobody is getting sued for supporting terrorist organizations on the Web. There is an urgent need for an international Internet police," HaLevi told the Post, saying the free world should join together to combat the phenomenon.

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