The Internet and Bomb Making

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Bomb making or any crime for this matter has undoubtedly been made much easier to commit with the prevalence of the internet. Do a google search and you can find instructions to cook up homemade bombs, pick locks, rob ATMs or even hack into the computers of others. The internet has made it far too easy to commit such crimes. However, is he who provides the tools to committing a crime any more vile than he who decides to actively seek out these tools, suppress his conscience and lash out at innocent people with his new toys. Therefore, is the internet to blame?

Taking the side of the internet for a moment, let us consider that first and foremost, the problem lies with the person who committed the crime, or at least the other social factors around him that might have pressed him to do so. If a person decides to blow up his school because he suffers from continual abuse both at home and in school, feels neglected and frustrated and as a consequence wants to blow up the world he has come to hate, is it the fault of the internet, or is it the fault of society. While one might argue that without the internet, this person would not have committed such a grievous crime, it is unfair to assume that this dejected individual would not have obtained such information through other means, or at least chosen to carry out his crime in a way he would have known of even without the internet. Let's face it, no one in the right mind would go learn how to build a bomb and detonate it in the hopes of killing thousands of people, with or without the internet, he would have blown up somewhere.

Further, such a simplistic explanation to a crime veils the actual underlying problems, preventing more realistic solutions. In laying all the blame on the Internet, society gets away scot-free for producing such homicidal people. It also gets away with not bothering to deal with the root causes such as broken homes which is inevitably a result of eroding moral values.

Moreover, such an assumption neglects the consideration of the reasons why the Internet came into being or has developed into this mega networking tool in the first place. If the Internet was meant to meet the demands of humans such as that of communication, how can it now be blamed for fulfilling this demand? What is after all a desired consequence cannot be deemed as unwanted.

Finally, as widespread as the internet may be, regulation is indeed possible and effective. In 2007, the EU made it a criminal offense to place instructions on how to make a bomb on the internet. In many other countries such as Singapore and the USA, regulation of the internet has been proven to work. In these countries, there are laws mandating that ISPs block undesirable content from websites. While new websites could come up just as quickly as we block them, these new websites are at the same time equally unknown to many and therefore not as likely to achieve their intended aims. Whatever the case, new technologies are being developed to tackle this problem both on the side of the user, and on the side of the provider. For example, parents can install net-nanny on their computer to prevent their child from accessing undesirable websites.

Having dealt with the negative side of the internet, it is time to look at the benefits and determine if the benefits are still greater.

Assuming for one second that the internet allows previously toothless cats to turn into ferocious blood-sucking beasts, we have to consider the fact it does at the same time help counter these problems by the very virtue of its widespread accessibility.

First, the countervailing effect of moderate groups can negate this problem, or better still, create a net benefit. With more easily accessible bomb making instructions comes a stronger response from societal groups that hope to counter this effect on society. These groups have realised that bomb making instructions are bad, and thus lobbied for legislation against this. We see this happening in the EU. These groups also realise as a result of further investigation that bomb making is not the sole factor behind an increased number of terrorists. It then attempts to create greater awareness and understanding of the religions which are used as a tool to propagate terrorist ideologies. In doing so, these groups have not only removed the existing problem, but have helped to stamp out the underlying problem as well. And this is only made possible through a widespread internet that provides access to viewers across the world.

Second, the internet has been an important economic tool, connecting countries across regions. Without a doubt, impoverishment is one major reason why young people are so readily indoctrinated by terrorist organisations and are that willing to give up what little they have for an agenda they reckon would probably make the best economic sense for them. With the internet, many impoverished nations have begun to obtain access to better education material, allowing schools to be set up and the poverty cycle to be stopped through education. These economic benefits brought about by the internet thus leads to a greater pull for would-be terrorists to continue working instead of sell their lives to a cause they previously would never have considered.