European Union interior ministers debated Monday proposals to sanction or shut down Internet sites spreading "terrorist propaganda" and bomb-making instructions.
EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini told reporters that he had urged the ministers, during informal talks in Lisbon, Portugal, "to make punishable activities of misuse of the Internet."
"My intention of course is not to limit freedom of expression," he said.
"My intention is ... to introduce sanctions against those who disseminate terrorist propaganda or instruct on websites how to make a bomb. This has nothing to do with freedom of expression.
"If a given website is found instructing people to make a bomb, the only possible result is to disconnect, or to close such a website," he said.
The Nazi-hunting Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a report this month that radical Muslims and other extremists had mastered the use of the Internet as a tool for propaganda, organizing and education.
It said websites were being used to stir young Muslims in the West and Middle East to violence and that they amount to a "virtual university of terror," promoting the creation of "terror cells".
Frattini said that existing EU legislation could not deal with what is a growing and ever-evolving phenomenon.
"We have to modernize the legal framework," he said. "The world, unfortunately, is changing and five years ago ... there wasn't a need to consider incitement, and now there is."
Portuguese Interior Minister Rui Pereira, hosting the talks as his country is currently EU president, acknowledged the need for action but said the bloc's 27 member countries had yet to agree on the best approach.
"The Internet cannot be an area where no responsibility is taken," he said. "There has to be limits."
"But apart from that agreement, we still have a lot to do."
The EU's steady crackdown on international crime in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States has raised deep concern about privacy and freedom of expression around the bloc.