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Fake news, terrorism content and closed forums...

'Scattergun' approach to addressing online content risks damaging freedom of expression. A statement by Index on Censorship


Link Here 13th September 2018

Parliament needs to stop creating piecemeal laws to address content online -- or which make new forms of speech illegal.

Index is very concerned about the plethora of law-making initiatives related to online communications, the most recent being MP Lucy Powell's online forums regulation bill, which targets hate crime and "secret" Facebook groups.

Powell's bill purports to "tackle online hate, fake news and radicalisation" by making social media companies liable for what is published in large, closed online forms -- and is the latest in a series of poorly drafted attempts by parliamentarians to address communications online.

If only Powell's proposal were the worst piece of legislation parliament will consider this autumn. Yesterday, MPs debated the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which would make it a crime to view information online that is "likely to be useful" to a terrorist. No terrorist intent would be required -- but you would risk up to 15 years in prison if found guilty. This would make the work of journalists and academics very difficult or impossible.

Attempts to tackle online content are coming from all corners with little coordination -- although a factor common to all these proposals is that they utterly fail to safeguard freedom of expression.

Over the summer, the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport issued a preliminary report on tackling fake news and the government launched a consultation on a possible new law to prevent "intimidation" of those standing for elections.

In addition, the government is expected to publish later this year a white paper on internet safety aimed " to make sure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online." The Law Commission, already tasked with publishing a report on offensive online communications , was last week asked to review whether misogyny should be considered a hate crime.

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index, said:

"We're having to play whack-a-mole at the moment to prevent poorly drawn laws inadvertently stifling freedom of expression, especially online. The scattergun approach is no way to deal with concerns about online communications. Instead of paying lip service to freedom of expression as a British value, it needs to be front and centre when developing policies".

"We already have laws to deal with harassment, incitement to violence, and even incitement to hatred. International experience shows us that even well-intentioned laws meant to tackle hateful views online often end up hurting the minority groups they are meant to protect, stifle public debate, and limit the public's ability to hold the powerful to account."

 

 

Commented: We once aimed for equality, but now we regress to a pecking order for the most privileged...

The government decides to consider the case for introducing discriminatory new hate crime laws for misogyny


Link Here 8th September 2018
A review is to take place into whether misogynistic conduct should be treated as a hate crime, following Labour MP Stella Creasy's call to change the law.

The move was announced during a debate on proposed legislation to criminalise upskirting in England and Wales. On Wednesday, MPs approved the Voyeurism Bill, which would ban the taking of unsolicited pictures under someone's clothing, known as upskirting, in England and Wales.

'Justice' Minister Lucy Frazer said the Voyeurism Bill was not the right vehicle for seeking such a change in the law but said she sympathised with Creasy's views. She said ministers would fund a review into the coverage and approach of hate crime laws.

The Law Commission will now review how sex and gender characteristics are treated within existing hate crime laws and whether new offences are needed. This review will include how protected characteristics, including sex and gender characteristics, should be considered by new or existing hate crime law.

Update: Governments should not be policing thought

7th September 2018. See  article from indexoncensorship.org

The Law Commission will review how sex and gender characteristics are treated within existing hate crime laws and whether new offences are needed.

Index does not believe the UK needs new laws to protect women from abuse and violence.

The UK already has dozens of laws on its books that make criminal the kind of abusive actions that are disproportionately targeted at women: rape, harassment, stalking. Despite this, the most egregious crimes against women frequently go unpunished. In the case of rape, conviction rates are woeful. A report published in 2017 found that only one in 14 rapes reported in England and Wales ended in a conviction.

Creating new laws that make misogyny a hate crime will do little to change this, as lawyers argued earlier this week . Nor are they likely to help change attitudes. In fact they can do the opposite.

Laws that criminalise speech are deeply problematic. In a free society, thoughts should not be criminal no matter how hateful they are. Yet laws that make hate criminal -- in a well-meaning but misplaced effort to protect minorities and persecuted groups -- are on the rise.

We should all be worried about this. As the US delegation noted in a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in 2015, hate speech laws are increasingly being abused by those in power to target political opponents or to persecute the very minority groups such laws are meant to protect.

In addition, they do little to improve tolerance or treatment of such groups: Such laws, including blasphemy laws, tend to reinforce divisions rather than promote societal harmony, the US delegation said. The presence of these laws has little discernible effect on reducing actual incidences of hate speech. In some cases such laws actually serve to foment violence against members of minority groups accused of expressing unpopular viewpoints.

As if to prove their point, Russia used the same meeting to praise hate speech laws and the need to police hate speech in Ukraine so as not to ignite nationalistic fires.

Tackling hate requires changes in society's attitude. Some of those changes need laws -- such as those we rightly already have to outlaw discrimination in the workplace. Some require major changes in our institutions to the structures and practices that reinforce inequality. But prohibiting speech, or policing thought, is not the way to do this.

Offsite Comment: Stella Creasy's war on thoughtcrime

8th September 2018. See  article from spiked-online.com by Ella Whelan

Criminalising misogyny would be an affront to free thought.

 

 

Thinking up a thought crime...

The government is manoeuvring on its proposals to criminalise internet access of terrorism related content


Link Here 7th September 2018
Full story: Extremism in the UK...UK government introduces wide ranging ban on extremism

The government is amending its Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill with regards to criminalising accessing terrorism related content on the internet.

MPs, peers and the United Nations have already raised human rights concerns over pre-existing measures in the Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill, which proposed to make accessing propaganda online on three or more different occasions a criminal offence.

The Joint Human Rights Committee found the wording of the law vague and told the government it violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The committee concluded in July:

This clause may capture academic and journalistic research as well as those with inquisitive or even foolish minds.

The viewing of material without any associated intentional or reckless harm is, in our view, an unjustified interference with the right to receive information...unless amended, this implementation of this clause would clearly risk breaching Article 10 of the ECHR and unjustly criminalising the conduct of those with no links to terrorism.

The committee called for officials to narrow the new criminal offence so it requires terrorist intent and defines how people can legally view terrorist material.  

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy also chipped accusing the British government of straying towards thought crime with the law.

In response, the government scrapped the three clicks rule entirely and broadened the concept of viewing to make the draft law read:

A person commits an offence if...the person views or otherwise accesses by means of the internet a document or record containing information of that kind.

It also added a clause saying a reasonable excuse includes:

Having no reason to believe, that the document or record in question contained, or was likely to contain, information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

 

 

Hating the other half...

Stella Creasy puts forward parliamentary amendment to recognise misogyny as a hate crime for sentencing purposes


Link Here 3rd September 2018

[The trouble with discriminatory laws such as this is that they encourage hatred of others rather than diffusing the issue. Identity politics is very aggressive. Lynch mobs gather to push for for the most severe punishments for the most trivial of transgressions. Police and the prosecuting authorities always seem to side with the complainant and the resulting injustice is noted by more or less everyone in society. It succeeds only in winding everybody up and chipping away at any remaining respect for the way that the authorities run our lives. In an equal society everybody should have exactly the same rights to be protected form the ill intent of others].

The Labour MP Stella Creasy has put forward an amendment to the upskirting bill, due to be debated in the Commons this Wednesday, that would add misogyny as an aggravating factor in England and Wales. This would enable courts to consider it when sentencing an offender and require police forces to record it.

Creasy hopes this will be the first step towards recognising misogyny as a hate crime. Creasy said:

Upskirting is a classic example of a crime in which misogyny is motivating the offence. We protect women in the workplace from discrimination on grounds of their sex, but not in the courtroom -- with upskirting, street harassment, sexually based violence and abuse a part of life for so many it's time to learn from where misogyny has been treated as a form of hate crime and end this gap.

The Guardian understands that the Law Commission, which has called for a fundamental review of all hate crime legislation, supports the spirit of Creasy's amendment.

In Scotland, the Holyrood government will shortly launch a consultation on the reform of all aspects of hate crime legislation, after an independent report recommended including gender , as well as age, as a hate crime in law. Although the National Police Chiefs' Council rejected a proposal to extend the policy nationwide in July, it has set up a working group to examine the issue.

 

 

Has any one actually seen any 'fake news' of note? or is it just a political Trojan Horse?...

Tom Watson calls for the establishment of an internet censor presumably to take down content that he does not like


Link Here 25th August 2018
Full story: Considering a UK internet censor...Parliamentarians call for a UK internet censor
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has called for the establishment of a new internet censor with  tough sanctions to police what he considers to be the wild west of the internet

Tom Watson has accused companies of not removing 'fake news' stories that are spread like wildfire saying:

Social media companies should be hit hard with fines if they fail to take down abusive content=

Watson says Britain should follow the lead of Germany, which fines social media firms up to 45million for not taking down hate speech within 24 hours. He says:

The likes of Facebook and Twitter have refused to change. Authorities worldwide don't have the baby teeth, let alone the sharp teeth, to make them take notice. International regulatory regimes are outdated and dangerous.

He adds that the protection the firms have enjoyed as platforms rather than publishers needs to be withdrawn saying: they won't go to the lengths they need to unless they have a legal liability.

 

 

Offsite Article: Taxing internet giants to subsidise journalists, but who will decide which ones benefit?...


Link Here 25th August 2018
Now Corbyn plans to nationalise the news Why cheer the Labour leader's support for government-approved journalism? By Mick Hume

See article from spiked-online.com

 

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