Dublin is to become a leading centre for digital research after the Institute of International and European Affairs won a major European contract to study internet regulation and terrorist propaganda.
Competing against 11 candidates from across the EU, including many large consultancies, the Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs has won a contract to produce cutting-edge research on the future of the internet.
The IIEA will examine the current initiatives against child abuse content used in different countries across the EU and will advise the European Commission on whether any are appropriate in the commission’s EU-wide fight against terrorism and violent radicalisation.
In 2008, IIEA research was the most-cited source in a European Commission study that recommended against an EU-wide censorship system to fight radicalisation.
Experts in online violence and internet governance will work on the project which will report to the commission in Autumn 2010.
Among them, Gilbert Ramsay, the author of the United Nations’ report on preventing radicalisation, Kurt Einzinger, the former president of the European Association of Internet Service Providers, and Tim Stevens, a researcher at King’s College London and author of a major report in 2009 that contributed to the UK’s strategy.
Leading the project will be Johnny Ryan, a senior researcher at the IIEA and O’Reilly Foundation Scholar at Magdalene College, Cambridge.
“Our brief is at the nexus of two key trends: the democratisation of communications driven by user-generated content on the internet; and the democratisation of strategic violence driven by mass-casualty, non-state terrorism. How best can Europe capitalise on the first trend to counter the second?” said Ryan.
Ryan said the objective of the study is to determine which measures allow internet users to register their concern about violent propaganda. On the other hand, the European Commission wants to maintain the openness and freedom that makes the internet vital to economic, political and cultural life.
“The commission has requested this study to ensure that the best expertise is applied to the question of how to keep the internet open, but maximise citizens’ safety.”
The balance challenge
According to Einzinger, the challenge will be to find the right balance between effective law enforcement and crime prevention and at the same time strengthen personal freedom and privacy of communications on the internet.
“It is worth keeping in mind that the internet will be the blood vessel of our global future society,” Einzinger said.
IIEA director general Jill Donoghue said those involved recognised the scale of the challenge and its huge importance to the country.
“The IIEA is positioning itself as a leader in research of digital research on political, social and regulatory issues in Europe,” she said. “We want Dublin to be the centre of the European expertise on this area. I think that the fact that we hosted UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon here shows that we are working at an international level."
The IIEA will be co-operating with Europol, the European Police Agency, INACH, the International Network Against CyberHate, EuroISPA, the European Association of Internet Service Providers, and INHOPE, the International Association of Internet Hotlines.
By John Kennedy
Photo: Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs will examine initiatives against child abuse content used in countries across the EU and will advise the European Commission on whether any are appropriate in the commission’s EU-wide fight against terrorism and violent radicalisation.