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LONDON (Reuters) - Western governments have overstated the role the Internet plays in the recruitment of militants, and measures to block extremist material are "crude, expensive and counterproductive," a report said on Tuesday.
Any attempts to filter or restrict access to sites grooming potential suicide bombers would be impractical and ineffective, said the study by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) in London.
However, the study suggested fears about the radicalizing power of the Internet appeared misplaced. Peter Neumann, head of the ICSR, said there had been only four or five reported cases across Europe where the process had taken place wholly online.
He told Reuters that Internet Service Providers could do more to deal with users' complaints about extremist material, and governments would regulate if the ISPs failed to bring in a system to better police content.
But it was a fallacy that "there is some sort of switch that can be pressed and you can eliminate all extremist radicalizing content from the Internet."
Officials have argued that it should be possible to filter militant material in the same way authorities crack down on child pornography.
But the report said this analogy was flawed: issues surrounding militant content are less clear cut, and it is politically hard to decide what is illegal and what is merely offensive.