What Will Happen When Governments Disagree Over Who Is A Terrorist Organization… And Who Needs To Be Blocked Online?

from the a-big-mess dept

You may have heard the recent news that President Trump has decided to label the the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a “foreign terrorist organization.” The IRGC is Iran’s powerful military/security/law enforcement apparatus — that also owns a ton of businesses. As the White House itself admits, this is the first time a foreign government agency has been referred to as a foreign terrorist organization. This is big news in a huge variety of ways — in large part because it could end up criminalizing lots of people and businesses who unwittingly do business with the IRGC including (checks notes) a firm called The Trump Organization.

But, leaving that aside, it raises some other issues as well. We’ve been talking about the impact of the terrible EU Terrorist Content Regulation that the EU Parliament will soon be voting on. But, as we’ve discussed in the past, there are lots of questions about who decides just what is “terrorist” content. Daphne Keller tweeted about the IRGC decision, wondering what happens when one country’s laws demand the removal of content from another country’s government and suggests (accurately) this is going to lead to a huge mess.

Of course, it also gets even more complex than that. On a recent On The Media episode, they discussed efforts by a few different websites to archive terrorist propaganda, both to learn about what’s happening (in the form of open source intelligence), but also for the purpose of historical records. As the piece notes, many researchers and reporters find those archives to be incredibly valuable. And yet, they’re dealing with issues of demands for the content to be taken down as “terrorist content.”

This is not a new issue. For years, we’ve pointed out how demands to delete “terrorist content” online has regularly resulted in the silencing of human rights groups documenting war crimes.

Combine all of this together and we’re creating a recipe for disaster. The EU is demanding that all “terrorist content” be deleted with one hour’s notice. The US is designating government organizations as terrorist groups. And human rights groups trying to document war crimes are being kicked off the internet. None of this seems like a good way to actually fight terrorism. It really seems like a solution designed to pretend that terrorists can be swept under the rug, like if we don’t know what they’re doing out there, they’ll just magically disappear.

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Comments on “What Will Happen When Governments Disagree Over Who Is A Terrorist Organization… And Who Needs To Be Blocked Online?”

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Rocky says:

Re: Re:

Even if we don’t like a person or a company we still need to look at the bigger picture, because if we just laugh at them getting their perceived just due we will soon choke on that laughter when someone in power uses the same mechanism to get at ordinary people who doesn’t agree with them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: a feature not a bug

"you say that as if it’s a bad thing…"


yes, the undefined ‘Terrorist’ label and formal designation is an absolutely wonderful tool for the US Government (and others) to actively, violently attack or legally pursue anybody or any entity in the world.

It’s a blank check to ignore any normal sense of law and legal due process.
You can start major wars on a whim.
Any US President now has plenary authority to designate anyone a Terrorist and execute them worldwide (drones are the preferred method).
Power, unrestricted by just law, is a really efficient way for governments to do whatever they wish to do.
It’s a feature not a bug.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Don't disagree, just ignore

"What Will Happen When Governments Disagree Over Who Is A Terrorist Organization"

That’s simple, the terrorists win. If we keep fighting over who is or who is not a terrorist as well as what to do about them the terrorists achieve their goals. We are fighting with ourselves. We are depriving ourselves of our rights. We are ignoring those things that make us free to do things that make us less free in the name of fighting terrorism. And, this is exactly what Osama bin Laden predicted.

"And Who Needs To Be Blocked Online?"

No one. Let adults make decisions for themselves. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be concerned about radicalizing people, we do. How we go about dealing with those people is the issue. What we need to do is figure out what it is about some post, or series of posts that causes people to be radicalized. Then boil those things down to addressable issues. Will we catch everyone? No. Do we need to catch everyone? No. If people become radicalized and go to help the radicals ‘over there’, it is simple again. Don’t let them back in, or if there is a real need, let them in and prosecute them…that is if they have actually broken any laws here.

And before those inclined start screaming about domestic terrorism first look at the stats. How much actual domestic terrorism has there been? Not too much. If one looks at all the things that have been called terrorism, but actually weren’t, there is even less. And second, tell the damned FBI to get off their collective tushes and rather than creating terrorist actions using marginalized people, go looking for actual threats. If they can’t find any that means one of two things. They aren’t looking hard enough, or in the right places, or there aren’t any domestic threats. Then they could return some portion of their force back to the law enforcement regime they were enacted to pursue. If those who remain on the anti-terrorism task force continue to be effective, the domestic terrorism rate will remain static. If they become really effective, it might even go down.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Don't disagree, just ignore

I am having trouble discerning whether Techdirt has changed or I have changed. It seems to me that the articles here used to be more coherent, and the comments were a mix of self-admitted crazies and the occasional insight. Now it reads like teenage fan fiction, with supposedly deep insights and observations that are as silly on their surface as they are stupid underneath. Either I am just becoming more critical (though not in any other area of my life) or the voice behind the Techdirt message is mentally devolving. Perhaps it’s a mental breakdown as the strain of understanding that Trump is not a criminal, but a lot of other people (like Chelsea) are either already in jail, facing criminal charges, or soon to be indicted as a criminal, is pushing the Techdirt writers over the edge of coherency. It’s amazing what a good AG can do for a country. Sort out the law and send people to jail that broke it, what a novel idea after two years of a farce. Chelsea’s already there, and she has a lot to say, right, Mike? You know her well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Don't disagree, just ignore

Well, you seem like you have a pretty firm opinion of your own, perhaps you could share it with us. Don’t you think the WHOLE story around Chelsea Manning looks scripted, phony, and an attempt to play into the whole “radical leftist”/LGBTQ movement? And then to be pardoned by Obama with such a (net) short stay in prison (if you factor in the sex change time)- I mean the whole thing looks orchestrated, doesn’t it? Like the radical government of Obama (Clapper Comey Et All) was behind the whole thing, and Chelsea was just a young unstable man in the grips of those with a vision about destroying America by revealing a certain set of secrets and not others. Doesn’t it look phony baloney to you? Just like Techdirt is phoney baloney? I mean, Mike and Chelsea shared a stage to celebrate their subversion of US interests, doesn’t that tell you something about both of them? Radical law breakers, one in jail, one on his way. What do you think? Is the whole Chelsea thing real, or scripted and contrived? Is Techdirt legitimate, or just another criminal operation about to be put in prison? I heard Mike was thinking of changing his name to MIchelle, did you hear that? How about you – do you plan on keeping your sex and protecting your country, or changing your sex and betraying your country, like Chelsea/Mike?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Don't disagree, just ignore

Ok, well, yes, maybe you are right. I just thought the whole Chelsea/Assange/Mike connection was interesting, with two of them in jail and all. Maybe I was ranting. It’s kind of like a “current events” projects in high school, don’t you think? Associating the international news with people around you? I thought it was interesting, anyway, and sometimes I rant to pass the time. You got me, yes, rant rant rant. That’s it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Don't disagree, just ignore

Ok, no opinion from you about whether Obama actually tried to destroy America with the help of Comey Clapper Manning Mike et all, but TELL ME THIS: Aren’t you glad you didn’t share a public stage with Chelsea Manning? OMG – a traitor in every nasty sense of the word. Glad that wasn’t you in MIke’s place, right? Who would be so crazy to risk prison and public shame that way? Not you, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

What was radical was insisting that children be allowed to choose their own toilet. What a stupid idea, I never met a parent that likes that idea. Children have enough to deal with without considering a sexual orientation, which they have no idea of the definition of. That’s why we call them children.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Don't disagree, just ignore

radical government of Obama

Compared to Trump’s government, Obama’s was Mother Theresa. And I didn’t vote for Obama.

Just like Techdirt is phoney baloney?


Radical law breakers, one in jail, one on his way.

How has Mike broken the law and how do you know he has been arrested and currently being sent to jail?

Is Techdirt legitimate

Yes. What makes you think otherwise?

or just another criminal operation about to be put in prison?

How do you put a ephemeral entity, such as a blog, in prison? Yank the hard drives and throw them in a jail cell?

I heard Mike was thinking of changing his name to MIchelle, did you hear that?

I heard you’re insane.

How about you – do you plan on keeping your sex and protecting your country, or changing your sex and betraying your country, like Chelsea/Mike?

I didn’t realize all transgender people were traitors. Or that all traitors were transgender.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Don't disagree, just Troll

"Yeah! Who does he think he is? Bill Clinton? Only Democrats get a pass for that behavior."


Classical whataboutism there. When Trump is being a prize-winning asshat the best you can come up with is that you willingly support an asshole because someone else supported another asshole first.

Here’s a clue. When the republicans went after Clinton the defense was never "Look, tell me which president hasn’t boned his interns, amirite?".

When a president is criticized and evidence can’t be found and presented over actual malfeasance that’s one thing.

When the president has been found an unambiguous immoral shitweasel and tries to excuse the behavior by pointing at someone else and hollering that they’re bad too then that doesn’t mean the shitweasel gets to be excused.

It means that ideally both him and the guy pointed to go down for the same crime or bad behavior.

Trump’s defense over his less moral decisions haven’t been "I didn’t do it". Or even "I’m not a crook". It’s been "Yeah, but look at what the other guys do!".

You truly don’t see an issue with the fact that the moral compass of the republican supreme leader consistently points toward using the lowest scum he can locate for the proper height to set the ethical standards?

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Don't disagree, just Troll

Douchebaggery passes are bi-partisan, David.

Democrats will give their guy a pass if he moves their agenda forward, and anyone victimised by their guy will be merrily flung beneath a passing bus.

Republicans will give their guy a pass if he moves their agenda forward, and anyone victimised by their guy will be merrily flung beneath a passing bus.

What goes around comes around. People who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, as we keep seeing over and over and over again.

Hugh R Joking says:

You believe WMD in Iraq and link to 9/11, but THIS is too much?

To be clear, I don’t support this bit of Israeli-caused escalation on Iran, EITHER, but for Masnick and you who believed those prior outright fables that were used to start invasion and war that resulted in murder of a million and displacement of more millions to balk at THIS is… ridiculous.

Speaking of designating as "terrrorists", though: when are you going to condemn Israel classifying half the population of Palestine as irredeemably insane sub-humans and penning them behind an apartheid wall, increasingly cutting off their communications and supplies? — Besides the anti-free speech attempts here in US to stifle the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement to expose Israel’s crimes? HMM?

You’re highly selective on what concerns you.

Anonymous Coward says:


You believe WMD in Iraq and link to 9/11

Did/does he? Or are you projecting?

when are you going to condemn Israel classifying half the population of Palestine as irredeemably insane sub-humans and penning them behind an apartheid wall, increasingly cutting off their communications and supplies?

I don’t know, maybe never since this is mainly a tech blog. It’s irrelevant since his opinion is not relevant to what he mainly writes about.

Besides the anti-free speech attempts here in US to stifle the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement to expose Israel’s crimes?

You seem to not know how to use the search function. Here, let me help you:


You’re highly selective on what concerns you.

Considering he’s already written about the unconstitutional attacks on the BDS movement and how bad they are, you’re wrong. You should likely do some research before you make baseless accusations that are easily disproved by a ten second search on the site.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

How it will work

Suppose there are five countries, A, B, C, D, and E; and five websites V, W, X, Y, and Z. Suppose A thinks V is terrorist, B thinks W is, C thinks X is, D thinks Y is, and E thinks Z is. Each country will ban its respective accused site, worldwide.

So the result will be all websites will be banned worldwide. No problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

They wont disagree. The whole aim is to block as much ss possible from the Internet ss far as ordinary people are concerned, whilst leaving it unblocked to those same govts and a few of their depts. They aren’t worried about us reading terrorist pages, they are worried about us reading about what they and their ‘friends’ are up to! Stopping certain sites is the cover up of what they are really blocking from us!

Peter (profile) says:

The answer is easy

Back to the last century: The EU’s endgame appears to be an internet purely as a commercial platform – a combination of cable TV and amazon.com. Possibly a propaganda channel for the EU commission, and maybe another one for the party with the most votes in the EU parliament. Cable TV can provide that.

With the new regionalised internet, any "Inappropriate" channels will be bullied and regulated away – country-by-country. Just look how Al Jazeera and RT are being shuttered by our governments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The answer is easy

I don’t think the EU has an end game really… there are a few vested interests who obviously want total corporate domination of the Internet, and there are a number of EU representatives who want full and balanced representation of individuals’ rights on the Internet — privacy and defamation rights being near the top of the list.

What’s happened here is that the corporate interests have given the social interests exactly what they’re demanding and supported their demands… in areas where doing so will cement the positions of the established corporate players.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just passing through

Nothing will happen, as usual.

Everything is a scam. So called education, health care, student loans, a no nothing do nothing – except make everything worse – prez who is an insult to the human race and a dysfunctional congress interested in only in collecting pay and benefits while pretending to be effective by passing ineffective laws no one understands or cares about while many/most so called law enforcement types confiscates/steals from the public or execute a lot of innocents while running around like SS storm troopers kicking in doors, yardages Yama. Ignore agent provocateurs, payday loan scams, and all the rest.

Believe it or not, you can have a nice day anyway. Tune ‘em out. Be your own leader. We will a be moving own in due time.
It is all a dog and pony show calculated to divert awareness of what is really happening.

Turn off the tv, crooks, pretend leaders and let nature deal with them.

Use your time educating yourself and living a life of your choosing, without harm to others

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Hmm. I’m not sure that the USA wants to set this particular precedent."

Iran-Contras was an aberration, surely.

So was Abu Ghraib.


The main issue is, I believe, that an increasing number of US presidents have started using the CIA as less of an intelligence agency and more of a PR company used to market and sell the current white house opinion.

From both sides of the aisle, mind. Democrats have been as guilty of forcing the CIA to produce doctored reports to present to congress as republicans have, I’m sure. But the most hamfisted and obvious attempt was probably under GWB.

It’s extremely shortsighted behavior but this is par for the course when it’s tacitly understood that whatever harm you cause will end up a benefit if the hit comes 4 years later.

Anonymous Coward says:

Terrorist usually refers to groups who commit terrorism or directly
support a terrorist organisation.
the iran milaritary does fit this description as far as i know .
North korean has special units that hack western countrys in order
to gather data and to commit fraud on crypto networks to earn money
for the government .
IF the us government is going to randomly government organisations
as a terrorist groups it will make it harder for western governments
to target real terrorists .
America is not at war with iran .
Many websites will have to block 1000,s of articles or posts, comments
since they might be seen as negative ,harmful or critical of certain
groups or countrys .
The open internet is fading away due to over broad laws like fosta ,
article 13 and the new uk law on bad content ,or harmful content.
Meanwhile every year theres mass shootings in america due to the fact that it seems as if anyone over 16 can buy rifles and automatic weapons .
Or many websites might choose to block eu or american users in order
to avoid legal action or having to build expensive filters that
may not even work.It seems the politicians who make laws do not know how the web works and do not care about free speech .

Koby (profile) says:


It appears to me that the internet, being developed primarily by United States citizens with a 1st Amendment right, have (mostly) created a system with which most of the rest of the world does not agree. The only solution that I forsee is a Splinter-Net of countries blocking each other, each with their own local control of their section of the network, only letting through communication from the largest of corporations that can fork their product to comply with the locals.

GEMont says:

I think all of the negative aspects of these new laws are specifically designed to do the precise damage to freedom that TechDirt lists as the negative consequences of their enactment.

The "notion", paraphrased below:

"Never attribute to malicious intent, that which can be explained by incompetence."

  • desperately needs to be reversed.

In my opinion. 🙂

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