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The BBC's Julie Etchingham
"Lilttle can be done about the bombmaking instructions Copeland got from the web"
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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Net tool for bomb-makers

Copeland used the web to find bomb-making instructions
A chilling fact that emerged from the Copeland case was that he discovered how to make his deadly bombs on the internet. Once again it has raised questions as to whether and how such material might be restricted. The BBC's Julie Etchingham reports.

When David Copeland planted his home made nail bomb in the Admiral Duncan in April last year he struck at the very heart of London's gay community.

To help those affected by the horrific attack, gay website Digital Diversity opened a special webpage.

Hundreds of people from all over the world visited it, many leaving messages on its online book of condolences.

Many websites provide step-by-step instructions
Yet the editor of Digital Diversity, Nigel Whitfield, says that even though Copeland got the information to concoct his nailbomb from the internet - any moves to ban such material from the web should be resisted.

"You have to accept the fact the internet is global, we don't have a global government, and its very hard unless you want to filter every bit of internet traffic in and out of the country. I don't think many people would be very happy if we did that," he says.

As part of his plans to wreak havoc in the capital, David Copeland took a trip up to London and came to an internet café in Victoria. It wouldn't have taken him very long at all to find the information he needed to make a bomb.

There are hundreds of websites providing such information, some more serious than others, and many provide foolproof step-by-step instructions.

Little can be done to regulate the Internet
What Copeland learned enabled him to wage a one-man war in the name of neo-nazism. For those who study the rise of extremism on the internet, it sets a worrying precedent.

Dr Les Back, a sociologist at Goldsmith's College says: "This case is significant because here is a person who is outside of the extreme right party organisation but subscribing to extreme racist and xenophobic views and using a profoundly democratic tool to wreak havoc and to fundamentally exercise the politics of terror."

And there's little that can be done about the bombmaking instructions Copeland got from the web.

Those who help monitor the internet in the UK say the only laws available to use online are those which already apply in the real world - and in this case they wouldn't help.

Roger Darlington: "We must be realistic"
Roger Darlington, the chairman of Internet Watch Foundation, says: "A lot of this information, whether we like it or not, is available and is available legally in libraries and research papers so it is going to be very difficult for us to ban it as a regulatory body.

"What we can do is appeal to responsible internet service providers and ask them whether they really feel they should be hosting this sort of material and perhaps over time its availability could be limited."

But there will always be ISPs who are prepared to carry the material - particularly in the USA where such websites are protected under the first amendment right to free speech.

But Roger Darlington says, in terms of the Copeland case, it is important to keep the issue of the role of the internet in perspective.

"We have to accept that this individual had a history and sooner or later he would have found the information to wreak violence on people and perhaps even death," says Mr Darlington.

It was made easier by the web, and we should draw some lessons from that and try to limit it, but we'll never combat it, I'm afraid, we'll never stop it completely."

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