23 October, 2006

Terror on the internet

Finally getting around to reviewing Terror on the Internet, by Gabriel Weimann. I shouldn't have put it off so long. I think the title put me off: a little sensationalistic, and I've had my fill of "cyberterrorism" speculations that ignore the political and physical context of internet attacks. Once I started, however, I found a book that was taking on many of the issues the others haven't even noticed.

Weimann, a professor of communication at Haifa University, has been monitoring and archiving terrorist websites since 1998. There's been plenty to monitor: even if limited to organizations on America's official watch list, by 2005 over 4300 web sites were identified as serving terrorists and their supporters. While other analysts have focused on how terrorists might sabotage the internet, Weimann shows how the terrorists have increasingly successful in exploiting it. Some groups are engaging in traditional propaganda. Some are raising money. Some are using the web for virtual training camps. Some use cyberspace to facilitate communication--both overt and covert--among groups. Others capture personal information to facilitate everything from targeted recruitment to identity theft. With CD-burning, video exchange, podcasts, and so on, individuals formerly on the margin of politics and society are empowered to reach a world-wide audience. The tools of globalization are used to attack the civilization that created those tools.

I'd recommend it to anyone who cares about the War, or who wants to consider the general question of how technology can affect politics.

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