Home Secretary Teresa May is believed to be on the cusp of announcing an unprecedented web filtering programme in an attempt to crack down on terrorist web sites.
The government wants to create a so-called “national blocking list” – a blacklist of violent and terrorist-related web sites – as part of its revised strategy to tackle terrorism.
The blocking list would be enforced within the public sector, so that computers in schools, libraries and universities would be prevented from accessing blacklisted sites.
Recently, May had criticised universities for failing to take the threat of students becoming radicalised by extremist groups seriously.
Any internet filtering plan that aimed to cover the entire public sector, would also encompass computers owned by hospitals, councils and the emergency services.
It is not yet clear whether internet service providers would be expected to adopt the national blocking list.
Currently, web site blocking is overseen by the Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), which was established in 2010 to assess internet content and co-ordinate its removal, where appropriate.
In February 2011, Baroness Pauline Neville-Jones, the former Conservative security minister, said that CTIRU had already had some success in getting jihadist web sites closed, but acknowledged that internet service providers removed such sites more quickly when faced with customer complaints, rather than government requests.
The plans form a central tenet of the revised Prevent strategy, originally launched in 2007 with the intention of preventing the radicalisation of young Britons and hindering terrorists’ support networks.
The coalition government launched a review of the strategy, which will – according to The Times, which claims to have seen the final draft of the report – say millions of pounds have been wasted on overseas anti-terrorist projects.