Radical Instrument

IT is changing the exercise of power. Radical Instrument is picking up the signals.

Terrorism and DIY media

with one comment

Wired’s Threat Level is reporting on the 15-year sentencing today in Florida of an Egyptian student who pleaded guilty to providing material support to terrorists. Highlighted is the student’s uploading of a video to YouTube, in which he provided instructions on how to convert a remote-control car into a remote detonation/ignition device – instructions which, according to the sentencing memorandum, were viewed approximately 800 times before being taken down.

My first thought on this was to go to Amazon, to see whether the Special Forces Handbook was still for sale. It was, and as the customer reviews confirm, there’s some stuff in that book on demolitions. In fact, under related items, there’s an entire separate handbook on just the demolitions topic alone.

So does the media channel make the terrorist? Not exactly. The sentencing memorandum is very careful to note that the student didn’t simply upload a how-to video, but clearly sought to incite violence, by advocating use of his techniques against Americans. That, and his active pursuit of bomb-making materials, clearly make him one to put away.

But that still leaves open the question of how the U.S. and other governments will deal with the instant access and use of mass-distribution media by terrorist organizations, or by anyone looking to incite violence (ref the use, earlier this year, of text-messaging in Kenya to distribute hate speech). Clearly, there’s a difference between a publication for sale on Amazon and YouTube – but there’s a whole slate of technologies in between – and technologies to come – whose use and misuse have yet to be figured out.

There’s also the question about the definition of terrorism in the wired, wireless, text-messaging, Facebooked, YouTubed, and blogged-twice-over age. It used to be that terrorist actions were planned, at least in part, around getting media exposure – the Munich Olympics and TWA 847 come to mind. If media access is available anywhere, anytime – well, I know there’ve been enough spilled bytes and opinions on this, but I’m still not sure about the answer.

Written by Mark

December 19, 2008 at 3:26 am

Posted in Technology, Terrorism

Tagged with , ,

One Response

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  1. This reminds me of the downside of having stay-in maids and helpers who have mobile phones– they can use them to coordinate with strangers and their friends and thereby be tempted to sneak out and be in danger.
    Now isn’t it nice to parallelise maids to terrorists both trying to be sneaky?


    December 19, 2008 at 4:38 am

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