By Noah Shachtman EmailOctober 15, 2008 | 4:44:00 PM
A few weeks ago, Western intelligence officials discovered that the Palestinian jihadist group Hamas had set up a video-sharing site — to spread propaganda and to train would-be terrorists. Now, that radical Islamic answer to YouTube is offline. And jihadists are blaming the FBI for the takedown.
AqsaTube mimicked the mainstream video site in almost every way. Users could watch clips, and upload their own. Even the two logos were basically the same. “The Hamas site, however, is devoted entirely to propaganda and incitement,” explained Israel’s Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, or ITIC. Material included demonstrations of how to detonate explosives and fire weapons, speeches from Hamas and al-Qaeda leaderships, episodes from a popular Syrian TV drama and clips of kids in military uniforms — while a musician sings, “death is fame and victory.”
As we’ve noted before, today’s jihadists don’t just use the internet occasionally. “They don’t exist without the web,” says Naval Postgraduate School professor John Arquilla. Everything from recruiting to training to propaganda is handled online.
AqsaTube also included Google ads, and links to al-Aqsa TV, Hamas’ television channel. However, Samir Abu Mahsen, head of production of al-Aqsa TV, tells the BBC that the video site “does not belong to al-Aqsa TV.”
This is the second time in a little more than a month that an extremist video distribution network has been taken offline. The al-Ekhlaas network of sites had long been a primary distributor of videos from al-Sahab, al-Qaida’s propaganda arm. Then, on Sept. 11, al-Ekhlaas.net was suddenly re-registered. All of its content vanished.
As in the case of the al-Ekhlaas takedown, militant forums blamed Western intelligence agencies for the unplugging of AqsaTube. But it appears a little sunlight may have done the trick, instead.
AqsaTube’s internet service provider was the French firm OVH. The company “initially denied hosting AqsaTube, according to the BBC, “but later confirmed that the website had been hosted by them and had now been taken offline.”
October 17, 2008
Beware anyone called A.Nony Mouse
Maybe ‘a Whitehall source’ is not a real name
So I was reading about the security services’ concern over internet anonymity, and something was bothering me. There was a line in The Guardian. ‘People have many accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are,’ a Whitehall source had said. ‘We have to do something.’ And I was perturbed.
At first, I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe, I thought, I had done one of those inadvertent bits of mental gymnastics, where you read ‘Whitehall source’ and you think, perhaps, ‘Whitehall sauce’. Like Worcester sauce, only fishy-tasting, and with a bowler hat as a cap. Or maybe it was the idea of Mickey Mouse being carted off to Guantanamo. Duct-tape over the paws, sodden ears flapping around on the waterboard.
Reading it again, though, it hit me. A Whitehall source? Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I had a sudden hunch. Maybe, I found myself thinking, ‘a Whitehall source’ was not this person’s real name.
Hey, I could be wrong. Possibly the ‘A’ stood for something. Alan? Arnold? Young Archibald Whitehall-Source, quite the easiest gig the school careers master ever had. Although I doubt it. I think my hunch was correct. I think this was somebody speaking anonymously, expressing his concerns that other people were speaking anonymously.
It looks bad. Imagine Gordon Brown had said “the City must curb its irresponsible behaviour”, while nipping into his local branch of Ladbrokes to place a massive flutter on a three-legged nag that some geezer had tipped down the boozer. Imagine Linda McCartney had preached vegetarianism while tucking into a juicy steak. Imagine Al Gore had warned us about climate change, while simultaneously flying all over the world and leaving his lights on.
Actually, wait. You don’t need to imagine that last one. But think about it, anyway. It’s just the same.
Anonymity is the great democratic boon of the internet age. And yes, some people will exploit it in order to join social networking groups called “People Who Want To Bathe In the Blood Of The Slaughtered Infidel”, or whatever. Most, though, do not. They just use it in order to express views that they hold dearly, and perhaps passionately, without having to fear that those who oppose these views will come and lurk with a chainsaw in the shrubbery of their front gardens. Or arrest them. Or associate them forever with some comment which, on reflection, makes them look like a bit of a berk. You’d think Mr Whitehall Source would understand that. Even better than most.
Apparently “Children are just a few clicks away from innocently stumbling across upsetting or even dangerous pictures and films” and so why not regulate the Internet for all of us? I suspect we will see more of these stories soon as there are call for further “content regulation” in the UK.
Monday, 20 October 2008
Three out of four children have seen images on the internet that disturbed them, an NSPCC poll suggests.
The charity is renewing its call for computer manufacturers and retailers to install security to stop children finding violent or sexual content.
The NSPCC, which polled visitors to its children’s website There4me.com, said it was “alarmed” by the accessibility of potentially disturbing material.
Some 377 of 497 votes cast claimed to have been disturbed by internet images.
One child posted a comment on a There4me message board saying: “I’ve seen violent images I didn’t search for. I was freaked out.”
Another said his eight-year-old sister’s search for “pictures of animals” generated pornography adverts.
The NSPCC wants social networking and video hosting sites to remove offensive material within hours of finding it.
Policy adviser Zoe Hilton said the NSPCC was “alarmed” by how easy it was for children to access “disturbing internet material”.
She said: “Children are just a few clicks away from innocently stumbling across upsetting or even dangerous pictures and films such as adult sex scenes, violent dog fights, people self-harming and children being assaulted.”
Ms Hilton said that every child should be using a computer with child protection software.
“High-security parental controls installed in their computers would help shield them.
“Currently computer manufacturers and retailers leave it to parents to find and install software that filters out material unsuitable for children. This can be a complicated process for customers.”
The charity wants retailers to ensure the software is installed before selling computers, and also manufacturers to start building such controls into their products.
She added: “Social networking sites must also put more effort and resources into patrolling their sites for harmful and offensive material and ensure their public complaints systems are clearly marked, easy-to-use and child-friendly.
“We would also recommend they give information on their sites about sources of help and advice, such as Childline, for children who have been affected by what they have seen.”