Human Rights in the Digital Era

Radicalisation: Monitoring Students Publishing Online

Professor Ian Cram (University of Leeds) looks at the problematic human rigths issues raised by monitoring the students activities, including publishing online

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“UK Counter Terrorism Policy, Student Radicalization and the Internet” – Professor Ian Cram, University of Leeds

Official concerns about terrorists’ use of mass communications systems to radicalize potential supporters and recruit new members predate the Internet. The infamous broadcasting ban that Mrs Thatcher’s Government applied to the mainstream UK broadcasters in the late 1980’s was expressly designed to ‘deny the oxygen of publicity’ to the IRA and it supporters was upheld by the House of Lords  as a reasonable restriction on broadcasters’ freedom of expression. Fast-forward twenty years and the current concerns expressed in CONTEST the Coalition Government’s counter terrorism strategy – centre upon preventing the radicalisation of young muslims via the internet. In the higher education sector, these concerns are reflected in guidance from the Dept of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS).  ‘Inappropriate Student use of the Internet’ is one of the problem scenarios set out in their policy document Promoting good campus relations, fostering shared values and preventing violent extremism in Universities and Higher Education Colleges (BIS, 2008). Lord Carlile of Berriew – the Coalition Government’s Independent Reviewer of Counterterrorism law and Policy – has accused universities of being ‘slow or even reluctant to recognise their full responsibilities’ in the face of ‘unambiguous evidence’ of radicalising activities. Thus UK universities are being urged to monitor more closely the activities of students – including the use of computing facilities.  This paper looks at some of the problematic human rights issues which such surveillance raises.


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