Few would disagree with the statement that the Internet has led to a global revolution. Ideas and messages can be communicated to millions of others, all around the world, in mere seconds. While this is largely a good thing for now and the future, the Internet age has also complicated the application and enforcement of national and international laws. Copyrighted material can be reproduced in mass and in perfect form with just the push of a button. A person in one part of the world can be defamed instantly in front of millions by another person thousands of miles away. And for the most part, the Internet allows these actions to be taken anonymously.

When messages sent over the Internet are not per se illegal, but are nevertheless considered harmful or objectionable, the First Amendment seems to protect such content even though the drafters of the Constitution could not have foreseen speech being communicated with the speed and range that the Internet provides. Historically, individuals would have to hand out pamphlets on corners or mail them to others in order to convey their message. But with the Internet, a few minutes spent developing a website can have a greater effect in shorter the time and with less of the cost. How the First Amendment conflicts with national security has gained considerable attention in the war against terrorism.

Be on the lookout for Combating Incitement to Terrorism on the Internet: Comparative Approaches in the United States and United Kingdom and the Need for an International Solution in the Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law’s Spring 2009 edition (Vol. 11, No. 3). The Abstract for the Note follows:

In recent years, terrorist use of the Internet has been gaining in popularity, with more than several thousand radical or extremist websites in existence today. Because the Internet transcends physical and geographic boundaries, combating terrorist incitement on the Internet requires cross-border global cooperation. Although the international community has taken steps to combat the problem with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1373 and 1624, the state parties to these resolutions have been unable to close the significant holes in the current international legal framework, and there is little evidence that terrorist use of the Internet for purposes of incitement is being prosecuted successfully. Certain states are limited by their own domestic legal framework, including the United States, which is significantly limited in its ability to combat incitement because of the constitutional restraints imposed by the First Amendment. Despite more aggressive legislation and the absence of any constitutional limitations, the United Kingdom has been similarly unsuccessful in combating and prosecuting incitement to commit terrorist acts. This Note compares the measures taken by the United States and the United Kingdom in combating terrorist use of the Internet for purposes of incitement, explains why such measures have been limited in effect, and extends lessons learned from these case studies to the international framework.

— Note Author: Elizabeth M. Renieris

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