EC to crack down on militant Web sites


BRUSSELS -- Setting up Web sites that encourage violence or explain how to make bombs and weapons would become a criminal offense under tough new anti-terrorism proposals the European Commission unveiled Tuesday.

The plans, published by EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, describe the Internet as a "virtual training camp" for terrorist recruiters and "an ideal complement to off-line indoctrination and training." He said the aim is to prevent terrorists using loopholes in one country to wreak havoc in another.

The proposal, which will need approval of all 27 EU governments before becoming law, warns that the Internet is "one of the principal boosters of the processes of radicalization and recruitment."

Frattini wants a new EU offense of "public provocation to commit a terrorist offense," which would include "the distribution, or otherwise making available, of a message to the public, with the intent to incite" acts of terrorism. "The new legislation will make it easier for law enforcement authorities to get cooperation from Internet service providers, to prevent crimes and identify criminals," Frattini said.

The offense would carry an agreed minimum jail term in all EU countries, and charges under the new law could be brought even if no act of terrorism resulted from the "public provocation." The proposal says, "For an act to be punishable, it shall not be necessary that a terrorist offense be actually committed."

Although the Internet is the prime target, the new law would apply to all communication deemed to provoke terrorism, including broadcasts on television and on mobile phones.

But Frattini insisted the new measure would not be used to restrict the spread of information for scientific, academic or reporting purposes.