back to article EC wants to suppress internet bomb-making guides

The European Commission (EC) has announced plans to frustrate terrorism by suppressing online guides on bomb-making. "It should simply not be possible to leave people free to instruct other people on the internet on how to make a bomb – that has nothing to do with freedom of expression," EC vice president Franco Frattini said …


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  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Great, now it's starting over here

    File that under "Things to do to seem busy and taking care of issues without actually doing anything".

    First of all, starting down the road of forbidding specific URLs at the ISP level is going straight to a government-controlled Internet. It seems to me that referring to China is just about the worst possible basis for making a decision that impacts freedom of speech on the most basic level.

    Second, actually blocking some sites or URLs from some countries will not change the fact that the information is already in circulation. Those who are interested will find it, if only in the Anarchist Manual or somesuch which is certainly available over P2P networks.

    Third, what about legitimate research ? Some people actually have jobs dealing with explosives, and I'll bet that online references that are freely available are probably quite handy to them now and then.

    Don't tell me that my security needs the Internet to become a regulated, government-approved and politically-sanctioned place, I will never believe that. Whatever terrorists exist today have the info they need and know how to apply it. As for the rank amateurs, well the availability of bomb-making instructions didn't help the latest group of fools in the UK, now did it ?

    Dedicated people with a will to succeed will find out how to make the bombs they need whether the info is available or not. Censoring the Internet for that excuse is nothing but an invitation to censorship for whatever excuse is the flavor of the day.

    I think there is one quote that is totally relevant to this subject :

    "Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will"

  2. Vaughan

    Frattini or Fratelli?

    Am I missing some sort of biting satire or are we simply being treated to a glimpse of the author's cd collection?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This worries me ...

    ... despite the fact it's so far into cloud cuckoo land as to be invisible.

    If this guy gets his way, then the principle is becoming established that you can censor discussion about something because it's illegal.

    I am increasingly concerned at the UK/EU tendency to make "me good-you bad" laws. For example, fire training officer with shelves of books on design and operation of incendiary devices - good. Muslim A level chemistry student with hobby for pyrotechnics - bad. The facts are the same for both, but a value judgement is called for on purpose and intent

  4. Lloyd


    Good luck with that, I don't actually see how they can enforce it or how it would stop someone from getting the info from someone outside the EU via email but hey, these are MEP's - not bright by any strecth of the imagination.

  5. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Quantum NEUKlearer BetaTest ..... AI Neural Blast

    "According to the Telegraph's Brussels correspondent, "internet service providers would face charges if they failed to block websites with bomb-making instructions".

    That presupposes that everyone knows what device they are looking for.

    Would you recognise a NEUKlearer Bombe even if you were to Read of ITs Construction?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Diffuse the bomber not the bomb

    If you remove the injustice that's used for recruiting the terrorists, then you remove the problem. The evil masterminds can plot all they like, but if they have no foot soldiers willing to blow themselves up, they have no attack vector.

    On the other hand, if you leave the injustice in place, and these evil masterminds *can* recruit their foot soldiers, then what stops them simply sending an email with bomb making instructions?

    So this can't work.

    I also think some of the existing measures are very counter productive. For example creating laws on 'incitement', simply suppressed the words used to express anger. But that anger didn't go away, so likely became channeled in actions instead. It tackled the symptoms not the cause and in doing so made things worse by marginalizing and fanaticizing people who, otherwise would simply be angry.

    Imagine if Cory Doctorow was not allowed to rant about copyright, DRM and the RIAA. He's you're classic fanatical type, without free speech, he'd be making bombs instead of speeches and blowing stuff up. Instead of an 'activist' he'd be a 'terrorist' instead. Same personality different rule set.

    I'm not keen on the EU getting filtering rights to the net, since it wouldn't work and would simply give them an 'in to expand into all areas. How's 09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0 suppression going?

  7. g lane

    When are the book burnings planned?

    It may come as a surprise, but there are these off-network things called libraries that are full of all kinds of nasty information. From the formula for CocaCola to the DIY guide to building fusion bombs - it's all there for anybody with a library card.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    What to do? Wait until we all get blown to hell?

    At least this guy is trying to come up with some ways to help, albeit misguided and ill-informed and, in all probability, unenforcable.

    Here's a new thought for you, instead of ridicule, insult, righteous indignation, bitchin and moanin' howsabout coming up with some ideas to throw in the pot?

    I assume you are all intelligent enough to formulate your own ideas?

  9. JasonW

    Nothing new in the world bears at least a passing similarity to the devices found in London and that delivered in Glasgow.... no doubt the court proceedings are a matter of public record and need to be banned too.

  10. bluesxman

    to: amanfromMars

    It's pronounced "nucular" ... nucular.

  11. Dave

    Even the BBC?

    I'm sure I've seen some interesting block diagrams on the BBC News site about how to process nuclear fuel and build bombs with it. They've even mentioned acetone peroxide and other interesting unstable compounds by name, which is probably a big help to anyone wanting to make them. Perhaps they'll also ban the Star Trek episode where Kirk made a makeshift cannon with a bamboo-like plant, diamonds and other stuff to defeat the Gorn.

    A better move would be to make sure that anyone who agrees with the censorship idea doesn't get voted in as an MEP next time.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No wonder the Glasgow bombing failed

    Given the quality and accuracy of information contained on the Internet, I'm surprised this is even required - perhaps MEPs would be better off writing a Wikipage and randomly edit it to keep the net-savvy terrorists on their toes.

    Personally, I find it *very* difficult to believe that anyone would rely on a web page for bomb making instructions

    ( The secret is to bang the rocks together ).

  13. kaiserb_uk

    80's TV

    All archived copuies of A-Team and McGuiver (sp?) episodes need to be destroyed forthwith.

    And does anyone see the inherent conflict in a department for Freedom, Security and Justice? Unless it's meant in the same way as "Ministry of Truth".

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Heh, it's a good job the internet wasn't around in the 1970's, otherwise the PIRA would have done some real damage.

    Hang on a mo...?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh look, here comes history again...

    I seem to remember some government in the late 1930's Europe burning books which they considered not for your consumption from libraries and replace them with a book you should read.

    All right, it's not exactly the same, but it so easy to think that today it that kind of information is not allowed, Tomorrow, some other information, until you are not allow any access at all.

  16. Richard Johnson

    would hinder scrutiny of the government

    This is a truly disturbing proposal. Many governments in the west have responded to the threat of islamic terrorism by introducing all sorts of laws, rules and procedures. They seek to curtail civil liberties, trample over people's privacy and greatly inconvenience individuals going about their lawful business. All in the name of security against a great threat.

    Some of the best journalism I've read following this has come from people who subject the claim about this threat to detailed analysis. In part this may mean describing what is possible with explosives, as a means of demonstrating that a claimed terrorist threat is largely implausible. Or to demonstrate the ineptitude of these terrorists. Doing so exposes the paucity of justification that our Government has for much of the anti-terrorism legislation it seeks to introduce.

    Stifle this sort of detailed analysis and you stifle scrutiny of the goverment.

  17. Lou Gosselin


    I'm sure this is exactly the logic China uses to justify their forms of censorship: The government must prevent access to material which the government deems is harmful to the public. This is obviously totally undemocratic as it does not enable people to make up their own minds.

    Will people who inadvertently or deliberately view the material have a tendency to become terrorists if they are not already? If the viewers do have malicious intent, does the material enable malicious acts which would otherwise have been implausible? Even so, a lot of legitimate material could enable illegal or malicious acts depending on WHO reads it (rocketry, computer programming, firearms, maps/floorplans, electronics). Preventing public access to these would kill human progress.

    Once we get accustomed to the censorship of "bad things", regardless of what that means today, then additional censorship will only require a redefinition of "bad things".

    For some people censorship can be justified ethically, but it is at odds with a true democracy. Which is more important to you?

    If knowledge is power, and the government controls knowledge, then who becomes all powerful?

  18. Nick


    "You always need a provider here that gives you access to websites. They can decide technically which websites to allow. Otherwise, how would China block internet sites? There are no technological obstacles, only legal ones."

    Only legal obstacles, and China is leading the way there!

  19. Keith Turner


    Whatever happened to 'Fun with Science' and learning how to make things go 'BANG!!!' ?

    I guess even the old bi-carb and vinegar in a tube thing would be classified as 'making an explosive'.

    Bah, humbug.

    Can't even call fizzy drinks 'pop' these days . . .

  20. Wyrmhole

    Re: to: amanfromMars

    Unless you're GW Bush, in which case it's pronounced "new-killer".

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear Mr. "Commission Spokesman", ...

    ... you ask "Otherwise, how would China block internet sites?"


    So, yes, the problem is purely legal: in that, here, in the EU, we prefer to live under the rule of law, and not under an absolutist dictatorship.

    Still, I'm sure you can figure out some plan to fix that, no?


  22. Dillon Pyron

    High school chemistry

    Come on, how many of you cooked up a few explosives in your high school chemistry lab? I know of a couple of ways to make nitroglycerin and TNT and have the recipe for semtex or torpex. I've made plenty of thermite and a few pounds of anfo. I've also held a TS and more for over 25 years. Which, in the eyes of some foreign governments, makes me a terrorist.

    Oh yeah, I know how to make a small atomic weapon. It's not the legal details, it's the technical ones.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So basically IF they went ahead with this and managed to get all the ISP's on board, what they would be doing is keeping this information hidden from law abiding citizens and the ones of little knowledge of how the internet works..

    Yet the criminals with access to proxys and for those who can use simple networks such as TOR, can easily access any information anywhere, regardless of what country they live in.

    Lets see, I have a proxy/port redirect in errm, Libya. I redirect through it to a banned URL containing bomb making instructions. Oh, I broke the law by using an unauthorised proxy, but hell, i'm gonna blow up the world so who cares.

    These people are retards, they seriously need to look into other issues and not mess with ones they know little of.

  24. heystoopid

    So does this mean?

    So does that this mean that a wide variety of University Chemistry Text Books and Production Engineering Books are now banned from all libraries in the land , along with all non military and government controlled industries that use the dreaded "Alfred Nobel" invention and all it's variants!

    With all these brain dead wankers and adherents of the "Peter Principal" leading us in the new 21st century we are doomed!

    The old army saying come to hand SNAFU (Situation Normal All Fouled Up or similar words to that effect)

    What price stupidity , trying to stuff a diffuse genie with a billion users back into pint bottle , oh how dumb and stupid can you get!

    With current scare mongering and chicken little hype in the mass media, on a scale of credibility of 0 to 10, I have assigned a quotient of minus infinity to all conglomerate TV media outlets , for they have truly lost both the plot and their heads and speak with many forked tongues!

    Now if they could save the 1.2 million souls assassinated by your average motorist every 12 months , instead of dishing out this propaganda garbage , now that would truly impress me!

  25. ian

    Too little, too late

    I first made gunpowder fifty years ago.

  26. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. James Cleveland


    Where is that Benjamin Franklin quote when you need it.

  28. Aubry Thonon

    Yes, Minister...

    I just had a "Yes, Minister Moment"...

    "It's a typical political response: 'something must be done, this is something'..."

    "...'so, this must be done'?"

    "Very good, Bernard! We'll make a politician out of you yet."


  29. Alan Donaly

    I already know how

    to make bombs what are they going to do now block

    my head, before the internet, people left the army with

    explosives training and the ability to make ied's, they

    took chemistry courses in night-school, and read printed

    manuals, which were not really bomb making instructions

    as such but there are so many ways to make an explosive

    device with common things it's really amazing this idea

    that it's any kind of knowledge that can be restricted.The internet

    just makes things more convenient not possible it's

    also possible to kill people in other ways so really bombs

    are not required to do serious damage 9/11 proved this.

    Just another pandering pol nothing to see here move along.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blocking web sites wont stop it

    All you need to do is go back to building blocks of the internet before web site were popular.

    News Groups, Telnet (for the old BBS sites), FTP

    or even setup a web/ftp/telnet server at home on different port numbers.

  31. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Listen Carefully .......I'll say this only once .... always in all ways.

    "Whatever happened to 'Fun with Science' and learning how to make things go 'BANG!!!' ?"

    If you are SMARTer than the average drone and care to think for yourself, you can have as much "Fun with Science" as you can satisfy. And in UltiMate Edition ARGs, [Alternate Reality Games/Gaming] the development and maintenance of NEUKlearer Bombe options in a Created Virtualised Environment for Real [and you need only employ your imagination to virtualise/visualise a Reality which you might want to create] is inextricably and unashamedly linked to AI dDutch Intelligence with a Prime Directive Drive in NEUKlearer Assets. [the Fun with Science word you are looking for, is "neuken"]

    QuITe how one Creates Virtual Reality for Real in an Advanced Artificial Intelligence Program playing as Alien in a Spooky, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll Genre, is the Seven Sevens for C42 Quantum Control Systems question....... easily answered, Pay on Demand 42 Boldly Go.

    That would make IT an Investment and not a Cost and therefore Real Dumb 42 Quibble.

    After all, in the great scheme of things what is nearly eight million but a positive number of zeroes....... for a bargain.

  32. daniel

    Just posted this note on Franco Frattini's personal website

    Mr. Vice-President,

    I am concerned about your proposals that have been echoed in international media about internet censure.

    As much as I approve combatting terrorism and supporting political dialog rather than armed conflicts, the fact that you are proposing a de-facto control of what can and cannot be seen over Internet is a frightening prospect, especially when compared to surveillance laws enacted in the United States of America.

    I find global government imposed restrictions on the free flow of information disturbing, as this sets a precedent for government censure, and also restricts free access to what is more often than not legitimate use.

    The fact is that your proposition affects potentially all Europeans - but not any terrorist group operating outside of the EEC, or any European accessing servers over encrypted links, or Europeans accessing sites via anonymising proxy servers.

    You are proposing security through obscurity, which is a very dangerous thing. Should ressources not be focussed on what really matters, namely putting the bad guys into prison?

    A part from my personal feelings on what I have read on this subject, I have other questions that will be problematic with this proposed law, notably the definition of what is "fair-use" and what is illegal "mis-use", as not every "bomb-making" manual is like the infamous "terrorist's handbook":

    1) Definitions: How to define bomb-making equipment? Fertilisers, fuels, every day chemicals can be legitimately used (glycerin, acids...) and misused with just some imagination.

    2) Why Internet? All public libraries contain encyclopaedias, describing explosives from black powder to nuclear fusion theory. Most organic chemistry books explain explosives, including nitroglycerine, TNT and RDX.

    3) History: For example, how to explain Alfred Nobel without explaining how he made Nitroglycerin, the evolution of organic chemistry...

    4) Studies: Internet is greatly used by students that need to study explosives (mining, industry...), and nitroglycerin is also used as a heart medication.

    Defining fair use is not an easy thing, as even fair-use can be problematic, and blocking all chemical related information over the internet will probably generate a huge public backlash, not to mention that you will have to restrict access to public libraries that present the exact same information.

    Finally, as you must know, even China has problems censuring it's internet access... and how are you going to stop the bomb makers going to classes in Pakistan, Afghanistan (and other -stans), Libya, Syria?

    Finally, remember that the the Red Army Faction, the Red Brigades never had internet access, and that never stopped them, and ETA and IRA never had internet until the 90's, and that never stopped them either.

    Filtering proxies will not stop terrorism. Police and intelligence investigations will. I believe that Europe will be better off by assisting human investigations, in the field and even on-line, stopping terrorist training camps and coming down on their finances, even though these operations do not afford the same policital publicty, they are far, far more efficient at terminating illegal operations, whether they be terrorism related or organised crime.

    Yours sincerely,

    Daniel Page

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dumbing down society for the lack of intelligent thought

    I always knew there were plans to dumb down EU society to create further synergies with that continent across the pond but I wasn't aware it had already been achieved and those people are now the people running the EU.

    What can possibly be done with a bunch of Eurocrats who can't think further than their broadband connection?

    If they want to remove that kind of material out of the public domain they're going to have to consider printed material (it's not all gone yet is it?... Nope, just had a look and I've got a book.)

    I certainly remember a fascinating set of encyclopaedias from the 1930s my Dad had. And guess what - you could look up how to make a bomb in that! A let’s not forget all the material that describes violent chemical reactions – god forbid anyone to get hold of that.

    I suppose the next thing we'll see is the Anti-Terrorist squad fully armed outside of the British library chucking everything onto a.... big.... fire....

    Hold on - doesn't this ring a bell somewhere?

  34. Hamish

    Oh, great

    So instead of finding out from the internet how to make bombs which go pop and fizzle and don't work, they'll be forced to go to much more accurate sources.

  35. andy gibson

    nothing new

    Does anyone remember "Jolly Roger's Cook Book" and "The Terrorists Handbook" text files that were available from Amiga and PC PD libraries in the 80's and 90's?

  36. daniel

    Re: Nothing new

    The Terrorist's handbook I remember. First saw it floating about about 1996 IIRC... Some good stuff, but a lot of crud that I would not really want to make in my kitchen... Not the best source for an improvised bomb, and a lot of American ingredients that are not available in europe, and no chemical names or equivalents...

    I bought a copy of a 1960's chem class book called "modern organic chemistry". Much better! RDX, TNT, nitro, picrates...

    Never heard of the Jolly Roger's Cook Book though... I'll have to google for that while I still can!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I *do* hope that was intended to be sarcastic. If not, buy a dictionary, read the bit that tells you what the phonetics mean and then look the bloody word up.


  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    This will make the ISP a private law enforcement agency. Great.

    This won't remove the bomb making instructions from books. Books which can be found in book shops, libraries and err... on sale on the Internet.

    Won't work if a proxy is used.


    Surely people made bombs before the internet, some pretty spectacular ones too.

    This is what happens when there are too few science people in government, just lots of Philosophy Politics and Economics studens. A pretty intelligent example of a PPE student recently asked me "What if maths is wrong?"... Need I say more?

  39. Richard Neill

    Public safety

    Actually, it's much safer for the general population if it is informed about the real nature of threats - then they make smarter political decisions. The bad guys already know how to make bombs, and this measure wouldn't change that. What it would do is stop ordinary citizens from finding out how terrorists work, thereby letting politicians be unaccountable. Consider which is safer:

    1)Most voters believe that it is hard to make a bomb. They support politicians engaged in censorship.

    2)Most voters realise how easy it is to make a bomb. They realise that the bombers can't be stopped by technical measures, and they vote for politicians who will solve the root causes of why people are driven to such extremes.

  40. Jon Tocker

    RE: Clever

    To the gutless prick who posted the following anonymously:

    "What to do? Wait until we all get blown to hell?

    At least this guy is trying to come up with some ways to help, albeit misguided and ill-informed and, in all probability, unenforcable.

    Here's a new thought for you, instead of ridicule, insult, righteous indignation, bitchin and moanin' howsabout coming up with some ideas to throw in the pot?

    I assume you are all intelligent enough to formulate your own ideas?"


    If you seriously believe that access to such files on the internet (especially considering the quality of a lot of the information on the internet) is going to get us all "blown to hell", you need to up your meds again until you can no longer hear the voices.

    FFS, I've seen some of these instructions and they're frankly laughable. Those that are not are pretty much common knowledge anyway.

    What "this guy is trying to come up with" is some ways to exert government control and promote censorship - the not-so-thin end of a rather large wedge.

    How "misguided and ill-informed and, in all probability, unenforcable" it may be is irrelevant. The fact is that he is seeking censorship - making him no different to any book-burning fascist in history (and I'm including the USA, with its long history of book-burnings and censorship and its current government policies, along with 1930's Germany in that category)

    Here's a new thought for you - one your Ubergruppenfuhrer at the Ministry of Truth would disapprove of: Censorship, book-burning and the suspension of basic rights creates exactly the sort of environment in which the malcontents who would seek to use such devices can flourish.

    Another thought for you: When the entire Western World is presided over by dictators and the Secret Police are tapping everyones telecommunications and arresting "suspected terrorists in the middle of the night, the Terrorists will have won - as they have already won against the USA. The Patriot Act and other measures in force in the USA have ensured that the entirety of the USA lives in fear of something - the terrorists or its own overly-authoritarian and unconstitutional government, doesn't matter which.

    Personally I know how to make a large number of explosives, poisons, improvised weapons etc - not to use against anyone, but out of intellectual curiousity. Most of that information I had long before the advent of the internet - and most of it a lot more accurate than half the crap on the web.

    I have the information in encyclopaedias and other books. Perhaps we should ban "Hazards in the Chemical Laboratory" (which I own, as a former chemistry student) as people might use it to make explosives and poisons - rather than using it to assist in exercising due caution and avoiding potentially dangerous cross-contamination in the lab.

    Who cares if a few chemistry students get blown up or wind up with an eyeful of shattered Pyrex through not knowing to ensure the work bench is clear of all traces of one chemical before handling another - just so long as the terrorists don't have access to a book that tells them what spontaneously goes bang, eh?

    FFS! There are a lot of hazardous things out there that anyone with a modicum of intellect would know could be used as a makeshift weapon/bomb/incendiary - hands up who doesn't know that a glass bottle full of petrol and a burning rag can be used as an incendiary device?

    Readily available encyclopaedias (libraries, second hand book shops, etc) have *accurate* recipes for gunpowder, dynamite, nitroglycerin, TNT, RDX etc etc etc. Much better than on the web where you have to have enough knowledge of chemistry to be able to verify that the "recipe" is real and not some bogus crap (and if you had that knowledge, you'd hardly need a recipe off the 'net, would you?)

    I saw a movie once where the villain was threatening to blow up buildings unless the city paid a ransom. The Scientific Advisor was explaining to the Sceptical Cop that the manufacture of nitroglycerin was, in fact, very easy so the threat was quite real. In the movie, the Adviosor not merely mentioned the three chemicals required, he explained in detail (complete with film footage with the fuzzy-round-the-edges "I'm seeing this in my mind" effect to SHOW how it was done) how to make nitroglycerin in a bathtub, and how to avoid blowing yourself up in the process.

    Extremely detailed instructions - perhaps that movie should be banned along with any movie or book describing how rockets can use hydrogen peroxide or hydrazine/nitric acid as propellants.

    Then they can later get down to the brass tacks of banning certain books on philosphy and other harmful ideas they don't want people thinking about.

    To your final point, I have no ideas on how to ensure that only "the right people" gain access to "dangeorus information" because, unlike you, I'm intelligent enough to see that the very act of judging who the "right people" are is one of the early steps on the road to a dictatorship.

  41. Stephen Gray

    Pascal Monett

    Legit research, into how to pack your car with explosives? Why does that old chestnut get thrown up every time? And as for the excuse, well its already out there so lets not bother, does that apply to child porn as well? I'll put money you and your mates will be the first to bleat "someone should have done something!" when your wife and kids die in a bomb blast, so using your advice we'll do nothing because it might infringe on your rights to look at websites that you never look at...

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