How much does it cost to catch ultra-blond terrorists surfing the web? £42,000 a year, apparently

In FOI, Politics on Thursday 26th February, 2009 by Guy

When a super-terrorist needs to relax after a hard day’s murder, we all know they like nothing better than searching for hair bleach products online, right? Which would explain why searching for “hydrogen peroxide” on Google (UK version) comes up with the following:

Do you want to bleach your hair too? Then help us find terrorists just like you!

Do you want to bleach your hair too? Then help us find terrorists just like you!

Of course, the police might be unlucky and their megalomaniac target might not feel like giving themselves a radical makeover. (Geddit?) But for once the knackers’ knackers have thought of that, which is why they also spent our money advertising their need for intelligence (geddit!?!) for at least the following terms, as documented by the extremely valuable and hard-working spyblog:

Religious Extremist
Fascism Extremist
Fascist Extremist
Left Wing Extremist
police [still goes to the anti-terrorism hotline page]
Right wing extremist
Muslim Extremism
Radical Extremist
Animal extremist
Left wing extremist
Islamic extremist
Green extremist
Eco extremist

Whether the culprit is then willing to own up that, yes, they are pretty dangerous individuals and should be apprehended immediately is left to someone else to deal with.

So how much does all this advertising cost? According to a Freedom of Information request that I put to the London Metropolitan Police Service, the answer is: £42,000 per year. The full answer was as follows:

The planned spend for Google search on the Counter Terrorism Campaign for FY 08/09 is £42,000. The Metropolitan Police Service does not currently run ad word search sponsored links on other search engines.

Another FOI request is underway to find out why no other search engines were used, how search terms were decided upon, how the appropriate budget was decided, and how the cost-effectiveness of the campaign was evaluated, and which stakeholders were consulted in the forming of policy on this matter. I will put up whatever I get here within at most one year of receiving it, I promise.

UPDATE: The FOI request and any responses to it (which so far is just an acknowledgement of receipt) can be viewed here at, another superbly helpful website for the lay activist from the chaps and chapesses at The statuary two-week response time seems to have been increased to four weeks, though, so I’m not expecting any substantive response until the 27th of March at the earliest. Last time I had to remind the Met that the two week period, as it was then, was up; I received a response the same day. Could it be that maybe they don’t want to release the information unless you remind them? That seems to be what happened with this request, for example.


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