Friday, May 14, 2004

Malaysia slams terror websites

By Sean Yoong in Kuala Lumpur

MALAYSIA'S leader vowed he would not let terrorists hijack the country's emerging internet industry, after a local company was revealed as the host of the web site that posted the gruesome beheading of an American by Islamic militants in Iraq.
"We will not allow any kind of web page or any company operating on behalf of terrorists," Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told reporters.
Internet hosting company Acme Commerce said it had disabled the site - - because it was drawing too much traffic, but insisted it was unaware the site may have been connected to al-Qaida or that offensive material had been posted on it.
Since then, the company has begun reviewing all of the approximately 5,000 web sites it hosts to determine whether any of them had militant links, said Alfred Lim, Acme Commerce's business manager.
It has shut down five more sites - two that were pro-al-Qaida and three with apparent links to the Palestinian group Hamas, Lim said Friday. Checks showed the company's contract with another site with Islamic militant links expired in 2002.
"We will terminate all similar web sites," Mr Lim said.
The review was expected to take several days, in part because some of the sites were in Arabic.
The beheading of US civilian Nicholas Berg, 26, reached the world through the al-Ansar site, and brought condemnation from around the world. Mr Abdullah called it a "heinous crime."
Mr Lim lodged a police report about Acme Commerce's connection to the site and to declare it had no links with al-Qaida.
Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar rejected concerns that Malaysia - which has a highly developed high-tech industry - might be a centre for terrorist web sites.
"Let the thing be investigated," Syed Hamid said. "I can tell you that we do not support any terrorist actions."
Malaysia prides itself as being one of the Islamic world's most progressive countries. It strongly opposes the US-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but is an ally in the fight against terrorism and has detained scores of terrorist suspects.
Mr Lim said company officials would probably have shut down the site earlier if they had known what was posted on it.
"We are a legitimate business, in no way related to al-Qaida," Mr Lim said. "We have no control over what our clients put on their web sites."
The case illustrates the difficulty of policing the internet, where sites can be opened in one country by users from another, at times with nothing more than a credit card number.
The al-Ansar site was operated by a client who rented space on a Malaysian-based web server owned by Acme Commerce, Mr Lim said. He declined to release other details pending consultations with lawyers.
Acme claims to host 5,000 sites for clients in more than 30 countries.
Mr Lim said Acme Commerce disabled the site Thursday morning because it had attracted "a sudden surge of massive traffic" sucking up bandwidth.
Acme Commerce's policy was not to host sites that carry grisly, defamatory, obscene, potentially offensive material or gambling, Lim said. He said it would "definitely not host this kind of web site" again.

Parent site: "Focus on Malaysia"