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UN, Industry Giants, Meet to Fight Terrorism on the Net

24/02/2010

Earlier this week, the United Nations met with private sector representatives at Microsoft’s Redmond HQ, to discuss how to tackle the use of the internet for terrorist purposes.  This is from the UN press release:

The Working Group on Countering the Use of the Internet for Terrorist Purposes – part of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) – is holding talks at Microsoft’s headquarters, near the United States city of Seattle, with the company and others, including Symantec and McAfee, to examine technical issues surrounding the topic.

The two-day gathering which started today is the first of its kind at the UN level to bring together Member States and entities of the world body with the private sector and academia to examine ways to counter terrorist use of the Internet.

There is a high level of crime on the Internet, and “it is essential that you bring in the private sector, [which is] an essential partner in moving forward,” Richard Barrett, who co-chairs the Working Group, told the UN News Centre.

This reliance on private-public partnerships is certainly where things are moving in cybersecurity generally.  It is recognition that governments do not have the necessary skills and capabilities in-house to tackle issues that in part derive from and also affect the global communications infrastructures that are, after all, largely under corporate control.

It will be interesting to see what the Working Group proposes as a result of this ongoing consultation process.  The melding of commercial, political, media and security networks is an inherently tricky and risky business and the UN will have to address up front how to preserve the integrity and safeguards afforded to ‘normal’ users of the internet.  It is no simple task just to get everyone talking, and for progressive proposals to emerge from that process.  As the press release recognises of just one particular issue:

Member States have yet to agree on a precise definition of “terrorism.” This complicates discussions on possible legal frameworks to prevent or curtail terrorists’ use of the Internet due to the resulting questions over possible infringements on the freedom of speech and human rights, Mr. Barrett noted.