Last year, 1,209 people were found guilty of offences of internet insult under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.
It is a crime under the Communications Act to send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other material that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character .
Statistics released by the Ministry of 'Justice' (MoJ) show that 1,501 defendants were prosecuted under the law last year - including 70 juveniles - while another 685 were cautioned. Of those convicted, 155 were jailed - compared to just seven a
decade before. The average custodial sentence was 2.2 months.
The MoJ figures also revealed a rise in the number of convictions under the Malicious Communications Act, which states that it is an offence to send a threatening, offensive or indecent letter, electronic communication or article with the intent
to cause distress or anxiety.
The "right to be forgotten" applies to any search engine accessible in
the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office has claimed. In a blog post earlier this month, ICO demanded:
In August we issued our first enforcement notice in this area
, ordering Google to remove nine search results brought up by entering an individual's name. Google has so far responded constructively, and the links are no longer visible on the European versions of their search engine. However we consider that
they should go a step further, and make the links no longer visible to anyone directly accessing any Google search services from within the UK (this would include someone sat a desk in Newcastle, but using google.com). This is a proper and
proportionate reflection of what the EU Court of Justice ruling means in practice, and so we've clarified the original enforcement notice
, with the original text remaining the same but with a new section added spelling out exactly what we expect of Google.
The Muslim Council of Britain held a conference this week entitled Terrorism and Extremism --
how should British Muslims respond?
And the response seems to be to call for the censorship of reports about the terrorism and criminalisation of criticism of the extremism.
Calls were made for the UK's newspaper censor, Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), to censor press stories critical of groups of people rather than the current remit to investigate press stories that are unfair to individuals.
The Muslim Council of Britain both called for that to change, amid what some claim is slanted press coverage of Islamic issues. The coincil had previously criticized media coverage of issues such as that of Muslim grooming gangs , in which
groups of men in areas such as Rotherham, Derby, Bristol and Oxfordshire were accused of raping thousands of children. Representatives of the MCB have said that linking the story to the Muslim faith was not fair.
Miqdaad Versi, Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, said that there is currently no recourse under the press standards code when a particular group is attacked by the media:
There's been many examples in the media, where we've tried to go to the code but we've not been able to, he said. If there is a way that a representative group can launch a complaint on that issue, that would be valuable.
One of the most high-profile cases in which IPSO rejected a claim of discrimination came last spring, and involved a column in the Sun newspaper about the migration crisis. Controversial columnist Katie Hopkins suggested that Europe should use
gunboats to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and compared those fleeing their home countries to cockroaches. But IPSO rejected complaints over her column, because it did not refer to specific individuals.
The conference also discussed the restoration of blasphemy laws, abolished in 2008 after they had largely fallen into disuse by then, given that the last successful prosecution was in 1977.
On the topic Keith Vaz MP, the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, told Al Arabiya News that he would have no problem with blasphemy laws being reintroduced"
It should apply to all religions. If we have laws, they should apply to everybody. Religions are very special to people. And therefore I have no objection to them... but it must apply equally to everybody.
David Anderson QC spoke on the topic saying he would not object to a public debate over the issue, although had doubts over whether such laws should be reintroduced:
Personally I'm not sure whether I would welcome a blasphemy law, because I think we have to be free to make fun of each other. We even have to be free to offend each other, he said. [But] I would have no problem with the idea of a democratic
debate on whether there is room for some kind of blasphemy law.
Miqdaad Versi said:
Muslim communities need to be able to respond to accusations Muslims, or against the Prophet, in a more effective way. Whether there should be legislation is something that really is a more complicated question.
Comment: One religion's blasphemer is another religion's saint
Here's a spectacular illustration of the big problem with blasphemy laws: religions contradict, and therefore blaspheme, one
This Catholic web site
presents, and accurately translates into English, criticisms of Muhammad and Islam made by a priest who has been declared a saint. Notably, St john Bosco was a kindly and gentle old chap, deploring corporal punishment at a time when Dr Arnold of
Rugby firmly believed in a good flogging in front of the assembled house. He observed:
"It would take too long to tell you all the stories about this famous impostor (...) Mohamed's religion consists of a monstrous mixture of Judaism, Paganism and Christianity. Mohamed propagated his religion, not through miracles or
persuasive words, but through the force of arms. [It is] a religion that favors every sort of licentiousness and which, in a short time, allowed Mohamed to become the leader of a troop of brigands. Along with them he raided the countries of the
East and conquered the people, not by introducing the Truth, not by miracles or prophecy; but for one reason only: to raise his sword over the heads of the conquered shouting: believe or die".
The Guardian reported about the trial of Nathan Matthews and Shauna Hoare who were convicted in the Becky Watts murder trial:
Matthews and Hoare harboured disturbing sexual fantasies. They exchanged intimate messages about kidnapping petite girls. Their phones and computers were used to access pornography focused on teenagers, young women dressed as schoolgirls, and
The Daily Mail adds that Matthews regularly viewed porn via the massively popular website, PornHub:
After the verdicts, campaigners warned that the case showed how violent pornography is fuelling deadly attacks on young women.
Dubbed the YouTube of porn , Pornhub is the world's largest sex site. It hosts more than three million videos and claims more than two million visits an hour. Founded in Montreal in 2007, it is one of a handful of sex aggregator sites that
boast more monthly visitors than Twitter, Amazon and Netflix combined.
Under its terms and conditions, those appearing in videos must be at least 18 and there is a ban on illegal or obscene footage.
But Clare McGlynn, an expert in the regulation of internet pornography, said new UK legal strictures against scenes of violence and rape had little effect.
The possession offence applies only to this country, it doesn't stop this stuff being made and uploaded in other countries, said the Durham University professor. These sites aren't considered extreme but they host content in categories
like brutal sex or forced sex. It's normalising sexual violence.
They said sickening images of rape and extreme violence against women have increasingly become part of mainstream porn on sites like Pornhub, used regularly by Matthews, or YouPorn, and are freely available to anyone with a computer or smartphone
despite attempts to tighten the law.
Following a campaign by the Daily Mail, it was made illegal to possess rape porn . But websites making such sickening material available to users are based abroad and not subject to British laws.
Another Guardian article cites a criminologist working with the Met police, but it all seems a bit cut and paste with arbitrary and seemingly irrelevant conflation with child porn:
But there is no consensus in the published research on whether the viewing of violent pornography or child abuse images increases the likelihood of
an individual carrying out contact abuse or even murder.
Dr Elena Martellozzo, senior lecturer in criminology at Middlesex University, who works with the Metropolitan police and specialises in studying sex offenders, said while there were certainly links between the viewing of such images and the
violence an individual might go on to perpetrate, not everyone who viewed such abuse images would go on to commit violent sexual acts themselves. She said:
We have been working very closely with a number of sex offenders where once they have been arrested they were found in possession of a very large collection of indecent images of children. But this is not to say that generally
speaking, when people watch something particularly horrendous like this he or she may go on to commit an act of violence.
Her colleague Dr Jeffrey DeMarco, forensic psychologist at Middlesex University, added:
We do talk about it as being a potential risk factor. So viewing violent digital literature, photographs, videos, images arguably -- if these actions are in the narrative of this particular individual -- would mean there's an increased
probability that their behaviour may go on to be of a violent nature. But there are a lot of people that are exposed to these kind of images that do not engage in violent acts.
A man who threatened to blow-up a shop and stab its staff for selling French magazine Charlie Hebdo in the aftermath of the Paris terror attacks
has been given a suspended prison sentence.
Shamim Ahmed sent an email to South Kensing ton's The French Bookshop on January 17 with the subject line: 'Protect your neck while you are still alive. Ahmed accused the bookshop of selling the satirical magazine against Muslims and
said they would face major retaliation if they continued to stock it. He then made two threatening phone calls to the Bute Street shop on January 22, telling the owner:
I'm going to come and stab you, I'm going to come right away and blow up the shop. I'm not afraid of the police, I'm a Muslim.
Ahmed was fined £1180, told to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and indefinitely placed under a restraining order which prevented him from contacting The French Bookshop or its staff, or encouraging others to do so. He was handed a 20-week
sentence suspended for two years.
More than 300 works are on display in Northern Ireland's biggest visual arts show, but a small area of one of them has sparked a clamour for censorship.
Christian Flautists Outside St Patrick's was the last painting by acclaimed Irish artist Joseph McWilliams, who died last month. He was posthumously awarded The Irish News Prize for the work. Close inspection of the painting shows a group
of people in Klu Klux Klan hoods at the bottom left of the picture.
Two political parties, Traditional Unionist Voice and the Democratic Unionist Party have demanded the removal of the painting from the 134th Annual Exhibition at the Ulster Museum following complaints from the Orange Order. The group complained
that a small blurred section depicts a number of Orangemen wearing Ku Klux Klan clothing . They deny it ever happened calling it deliberate demonization .
It has prompted calls from unionist political party Traditional Unionist Voice to remove the painting from display. The Democratic Unionist Party also criticised the work.
However the Royal Ulster Academy has refused to bow to these demands. Academy president Denise Ferran said the work would not be removed over the disputed square inch of a canvas that is seven foot by five foot as it would be an attack on artistic
The Academy has subsequently put up notices saying some people may be offended by the exhibition. Ferran said:
What we will not do is take the picture down. Once you go down that road, the problems will never cease. I'm delighted we're not a moribund crowd of old stooges. We are causing provocation, which is what an academy of artists should be doing.
A spokesman for the Orange Order said putting up the disclaimers was a necessary step and at least some acknowledgement of the genuine concerns of the institution and many in the wider community to the inaccurate and misleading nature of the
painting in question . He added that the group had not called for the painting to be removed from display saying the Orange Order does not actively support censorship . A spokesman for the Order said its members were entitled to feel
outraged that a major publicly funded facility should display such artwork which is deeply offensive to their traditions.
The Million Mask March is an annual protest against government cuts and surveillance across the UK, with the largest gathering in London. It is organised by the internet group Anonymous. The Facebook page for the event, on 5th November, said it
was intended to oppose the encroaching destruction of civil liberties.
The Met Police said they were imposing conditions under the Public Order Act. Ch Supt Pippa Mills said conditions were being placed on the protest because we have such serious concerns . The police have specified:
The march must not start before 18:00 GMT and must finish at 21:00; Attendees should stick to a particular route between Parliament Square and Trafalgar Square; Officers have the power to make protesters remove facial coverings.
Protests are expected across the world, with demonstrations expected to take place in countries including Cambodia, Chile, Canada, America and Mexico.
Natalia Kaliada, director of the Belarus Free Theatre, moved to the UK in 2011 after fleeing a state where freedom of expression
is severely restricted, activists can be arbitrarily detained and opposition journalists are routinely harassed.
But now she notes that Britain is not entirely free of state censorship either. Speaking at an arts symposium called No Boundaries she said her company was:
Highly sensitive to any form of control because of its experience in Belarus. I paid the price, and my family paid the price, for speaking our minds freely while living under a dictatorship.
Now, living in a democracy, I start to develop a fear of speaking freely in our shows in case we will lose our funding. Creative conformism is blooming in democratic countries, and so you have to ask whether the only way to secure funding today is to
create safe art.
She questioned why there was so much fear in the UK about standing up for provocative artistic work :
We understand that censorship under a dictatorship is imposed by the external ruling regime. Censorship from within a democracy is often self-imposed by the individual.
Nadia Latif, director of the play, called Homegrown , told the Symposium:
We jump to support artists struggling to make work in the regimes of the East, but here in our haven of Western liberal democracy we hesitate to stand behind those pushing against a more insidious authoritarianism.