Dangerous information abundant on Net

HONOLULU, Hawaii (U-WIRE) — The Internet is the world’s leading source of information in the 1990s. An icon for free speech rights, the World Wide Web is a free exchange of information. Nearly anyone with access to a computer can put information on the Web, free of charge and free of consequence.
In the wake of the Columbine High School incident just two weeks ago, people have been asking questions about this open exchange of information. The members of the self-named “Trench Coat Mafia” had the technical knowledge necessary to build everything from pipe bombs to booby traps.
How much of a role did the Internet play in this? How easy is it to get such information from the Internet?
One of the most common sources of such information is a batch of text files, originally published as a book, called the “Anarchist’s Cookbook.” The “Anarchist’s Cookbook” contains detailed instructions for manufacturing, distributing, and using weapons and drug paraphernalia. Instructions include:
ù How to build pipe bombs.
ù How to make LSD.
ùHow to make grenades.
ù How to make a cannon.
ù How to make a land mine.
ù How to make gelled flame fuels.
ù How to build a grenade launcher.
The book also contains suggestions on how to use these skills. In one part of the book, called “operation: ****up” it gives detailed instructions on how to get revenge … by burning down someone’s house.
All of the devices listed can be made with simple household or hardware store products. The instructions are simple enough for nearly any reasonably intelligent person to follow and require no technical knowledge whatsoever. The book even provides a list of all the major chemicals used in the production of explosive and chemical weapons. It provides household equivalences for all of these chemicals, such as household cleaners and mothballs.
This information is completely impossible to contain. First Amendment rights protect the right to post such information, and there is no way to legally monitor who views it. Besides, most Internet-limiting legislation is based on limiting pornographic material.
And the information is consequence-free. It is free of charge, essentially untraceable, and easy to obtain. The author, as well as the people who post it, are anonymous and completely within their rights as American citizens.
The cookbook, which itself is posted on several sites, is not the sole source of such information. A search for “How to make a bomb” on a normal Internet search engine such as Altavista or Lycos, can turn up hundreds of entries. So while some use the Internet for such purposes as ordering T-shirts and auctioning jewelry, others may use it to post and obtain information about dangerous weapons.
Think about that the next time you log on.
Jeremy Pippin’s column originally appeared in Thursday’s University of Hawaii Ka Leo O Hawaii.