Ironically, most of jihadi websites are hosted by American providers. Indeed, a number of American internet companies unwittingly play host to Arabic-language websites which often urge attacks against U.S. and Israeli targets, provide military instructions to Mujahedeen, or give advice on how to detonate bombs. In the courtrooms, prosecutors want the administrators of those sites to be held criminally responsible for their contents, but this position is strongly rejected by civil libertarians and has so far been proven unpersuasive. Thomas Hegghammer of the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, argues that it is hard to make a distinction between a real terrorist and a virtual make-believe one.
A consequence of making a judgement by the state, would result in the risk of persecuting many young people who do not actually intend to take part on terrorist activities, but pretend to do so because of anger or to feel excitement. For those reasons, the federal government faces many difficulties in shutting down possible jihadist websites. North American Internet companies tend not to comply, arguing that keeping track of all the contents stored in their servers is impractical and unethical. The US News And World Report of 1998 claimed that even if terrorist Web sites were public, the FBI was precluded from keeping their files. Agents could surf their web pages, but in order to save material from a site on a regular basis, they must have been conducting a criminal investigation. Additionally, Islamic liberties campaigners in the US argue that the anti-terrorists websites effort would be in reality an anti-Muslim campaign, compromising important first amendment rights. In this respect, Arsalan Iftikhar, legal director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, accuses the Government to act in contrast to the freedom of speech, one of the most important principles in the American constitution.
Noticeably, the legislation regarding the publication of material on the internet, is a debated issue. The distinction between jihadi first level of propaganda and “moderate” Islamic websites can in fact be problematic. It is a crucial aspect of the investigations to establish whether a site is simply offering inspirational rhetoric or is truly linked to terror groups. It is in fact true that the hatred exhortations in 2006 of websites like britishoppression.com were often followed by acts of violence, but that does not necessarily mean that they were connected. Web sites such as the former britishopression.com helped to create a sense of victimization and incited to take action against the governments of the host countries. West governments are accused of oppressing Muslims by attacking their religious symbols, using terror laws against them, invading and occupying their countries, spying on them, raiding their houses, torturing and killing them. These accusations are likely to fuel hatred and extremism, but since they don’t explicitly incite violence, they cannot be defined as terrorist websites. Salaattime.com could be considered a “moderate” website but among its publications there are clear vindications of suicide bombing act which they urge their audience to call “martyrdom operations” because ‘if his intention is to make the word of Allah High and Supreme by killing or destroying the Kafireen (unbelievers), then this is Shahaada fe Sabeelillah and not suicide’ (from the lecture “Allah is Preparing us for Victory” of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki downloadable from salaattime.com).
In other similar sites non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the Islamic part of the forums which, unsurprisingly, are protected. While scholars and politicians were debating on those issues, in 2004, under the new anti-terror laws, a Lebanese Australian citizen, Bilal Khazal has been charged with publishing a document on the internet which incited terrorism.
Aside from those ethical and legal problems, many argue that monitoring the main jihadi websites could be more productive than trying to close them, because it is likely that they would soon appear back online with different names, making it harder for the investigators to find them again.