Theresa May, the current UK Home Secretary, has announced that, if re-elected, her party (the Conservatives) will push for “extremist disruption orders” which would effectively ban people declared “extremist” (using a very broad definition) from using social media or appearing on TV.
By Mike Masnick @ Tech Dirt
Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.
They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.
The broad definitions here matter. Part of the plan is to make such rules cover a wide variety of groups and individuals, based on what the government “reasonably believes” they may be up to:
Under the Tories’ new proposals, groups that cannot currently be proscribed could be subject to banning orders should ministers “reasonably believe” that they intend to incite religious or racial hatred, to threaten democracy or if there is a pressing need to protect the public from harm, either from a risk of violence, public disorder, harassment or other criminal acts.
Yes, if the government “reasonably believes” you engage in harassment at some point in the future, it can have you declared an extremist, bar you from TV and public events, and make sure that all your social media posts are pre-reviewed for approval. Supporters flat out admit that this would be done to get people who are currently doing things that are perfectly legal:
The new orders will be part of the Government’s “Prevent” strategy, which tackles the ideology behind the terrorist threat. So-called hate preachers, who currently stay just within terrorism legislation, will be one of the targets of banning orders and Extremism Disruption Orders (EDOs).
But, of course, things like that imply that it will only be used against “terrorists” or terrorist sympathizers. But, as the details make clear, this expands way beyond terrorism to those who may be involved in other offenses. Big Brother Watch details how environmental groups may be tied up by this:
The fact that these Extremist Disruption Orders won’t only apply to potential terrorists, but simply to those who present a threat to public disorder, clearly highlights that this policy is the thin end of the wedge.
We were told that the National Extremist Database would contain details of those who posed a nations security, yet we know members of the public who have done little more than organise meetings on environmental issues are on the database.
What’s especially galling is the fact that May is claiming that this is being done in the name of “British values,” which certainly suggests that freedom of speech and freedom to associate are, in fact, antithetical to British values. Also, all of this assumes that speech, alone, is somehow dangerous — despite years of proof that speech by itself is rarely dangerous. However, the suppression of speech often creates more problems.