How to fight it


Le Royaume Uni a un lourd passé lié au terrorisme. En Effet, depuis l’indépendance de l’Irlande du Sud en 1922, le pays a subi de multiples attaques terroristes en lien avec l’Irlande du Nord. Mais au XXIe siècle le terrorisme a pris un nouveau visage, celui de la revendication islamiste radicale. Comment le Royaume-Uni combat-il cette nouvelle menace ?


The measures already taken by the government 

To fight this new wave of terrorism, the UK has introduced 4 pieces of anti-terrorist legislation since the 9/11 attacks:

  •  Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001: as in the US, security agencies were allowed to detain supposed-terrorists without charges or trials. It has now been replaced by control orders and economic restrictions for supposed-terrorists.
  •  Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005: allows the surveillance of persons suspected of terrorism without enough charges against them.
  • Terrorism Act 2006: forbids people from claiming their involvement in terrorist acts.
  • Counter-Terrorism Act 2008: allows interviewing suspected terrorists and taking DNA samples; and for the first time, it amends the definition of terrorism by inserting a racial cause.

This legislation has often been criticised because of its lack of consideration for human rights. Furthermore, with the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2001, like the USA, the UK went against global justice. But with the recent events, new measures have been taken to fight terrorism.

In September, David Cameron announced new measures to prevent terrorism because of ISIS and the international context of the expansion of jihadism. The Police will now be able to detain the passports of supposed-terrorists trying to join Syria or Iraq. The government will now be able to detain the passenger list of airlines in order to prevent jihadists from coming to the UK. Also it is trying to expel terrorist suspects from the British territory. Cameron has declared that the kind of events that happened in September (the violent murder of a British journalist by jihadists) must be avoided and that measures should be taken to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

The government is also paying attention to a medieval law to punish the British jihadists. Indeed in 1351, when Edward the third reigned in Great Britain, the Treason Act was passed, which sentenced to death everyone guilty of high treason. Thomas More in 1535 and Queen Marie Stuart in 1587 were declared guilty of this crime. Nowadays, you risk a life sentence, but the last time this act was used was in 1946. So how can this act be used in the case of British citizens leaving for Syria? In fact, the jihadists swear allegiance to the Islamic State so they are guilty of high treason because they are not loyal to their country.

But the intelligence agencies are protecting UK citizens, aren’t they?

Photography by Christopher HoltMI6

Britain has three intelligence agencies: MI5, the domestic agency; the world famous MI6, the overseas Secret Intelligence Service where James Bond works; and the UK’s GCHQ eavesdropping centre.

OsborneGeorge Osborne

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne wants to give more powers to MI5 and MI6 after the Charlie Hebdo attack. Indeed, for some years UK information services have had to balance the need to address the threat of jihadism and the restrictions on privacy, especially after Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 which undermined their capacities. Despite that, 50% of MI5’s work is devoted to terrorism and recently the government has spent 100 million pounds on a program to watch British jihadists.

parkerAndrew Parker

Today, Andrew Parker, the head of MI5, demands “the assistance of companies which hold relevant data”. The Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill will probably be another future option. It will enable spy agencies to collect personal data for example (emails, phone conversations and the like).

But the Liberal Democrats refuse to see more powers given to the UK intelligence agencies because they are afraid of the consequences and want the privacy of people to be respected. They put forward the idea that there is no evidence that mass surveillance is effective.


Another often criticised method to combat terrorism, largely used by the intelligence agencies, consists in using agents provocateurs, i.e. in infiltrating agents in suspected groups to entice them to commit crimes. This method will probably be used increasingly in the next few months but one can wonder whether they are safe. In fact, when the IRA was active, the police was accused of infiltrating peaceful groups and creating danger where there was none…

But today terrorism has a new playground, the internet. It is on the Internet that counter terrorism must succeed because it is where numerous young English people are radicalised.

The fight terrorism, an internet war 

Many groups such as Isis use Internet to make the apology of their crimes and to recruit for the jihad. Internet has become one of the main canals for the propaganda of the terrorist movement. This propaganda seems to work particularly well in Britain where more than 500 left for Syria and Iraq. To fight this internet propaganda the British government has been trying to find solutions. In particular it has asked all major UK ISPs to offer customers the option to filter out certain types of content related to terrorism – as is already the case with pornography. But this method is not totally effective, in fact the measures can easily be bypassed by internet users. Moreover the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), created in 2010, has removed more than 55,000 pieces of online content, including 34,000 pieces last year alone.


But the fact is that the major part of the work against Jihad 2.0 must be done on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook where so many people watch videos about ISIS, post tweets to champion terror and contribute to the proliferation of this terrible propaganda. During a Luxembourg meeting held on October 8 where David Cameron was present, the European Union had asked these internet giants to help them fight this problem. These websites clearly have a role to play. Twitter and Facebook have already closed the accounts affiliated to the terrorist and extremist movements when they call for violence and Google has removed from YouTube the most litigious videos.

cameron zuckerberg

But apparently , the fight run by Google and Twitter is not sufficient because more and more people decide to go to Syria and still too many active accounts support ISIS or other groups.

Some activists, like Anonymous, have decided to take up the fight on the internet against the terrorists and their supporters. In fact, after the Charlie Hebdo attack, Anonymous posted a video in which they say they will fight terrorism on internet. The informal group published a list of 120 “islamist” Twitter accounts, then a list of 89 “terrorist” accounts. Most of these accounts have since been suspended by the social network, while a collaborative document aims to list all the accounts (more than 9000 accounts have already been found!).


The kind of vigilante action can in fact have drawbacks. Some accounts are valuable evidence for the Police to analyse. Because it’s not a governmental organisation, Anonymous should not decide alone which account has to be deleted.

One last question comes to mind: are all these actions carried out on the Internet to fight 2.0 Jihad even effective?  When a site or an account is deleted, others will rise immediately…

The large collection of measures and initiatives to counter terrorism aren’t all equally efficient and some are clearly controversial, but the security of the British people now depends on them.

Raphaelle EZERZER, Clémentine GOMEZ & Clémence MICHEL


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