Theresa May believes in promoting online censorship to fight terror and extremism. In doing so, she falls nicely in line with her EU counterparts.
During her first foreign trip since performing dismally in last week’s general election, PM May and French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday announced further crackdowns on extremist content online.
Of course, dealing with recent terrorist atrocities in both Britain and France were high on the agenda for May and Macron’s meeting, So they chose to counter those horrific by assaulting Facebook and Google.
Mrs May said at a joint press conference that the UK is already working with internet companies “to stop the spread of extremist material that is warping young minds”.
A joint statement with Macron further announced intentions to create a new legal obligation under which web firms would be fined if they didn’t “abide by their social responsibility to step up their efforts to remove harmful content”.
EU censorship project
However, there are ongoing concerns from independent media organisations and freedom advocates that such laws may instead be used to suppress critics of European Union policies, such as indiscriminate immigration from Middle East and North African countries.
The measures set out yesterday echo similar statements made at last month’s G7 summit in Italy. Internet censorship and associated surveillance are clearly part of an ongoing EU project.
As Newsweek reported in 2015, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Germany happily defines online criticism of her country’s “refugee” policies as “hate speech”. Facebook and Google fell in line and started deleting or burying websites and videos exposing terrorists – and simultaneously gained notoriety for not blocking actual jihadist content.
Censorship won’t work
There’s an argument to say that online content should not be censored. After all, it exposes real threats which, if truly dangerous, can be traced back to allow arrests of the perpetrators.
A more obvious point to be made is that online censorship will not stop an extremist Imam from preaching hate speech in his mosque and organising terror plots. Nor will it deter violent attacks in public places performed by any of 23,000 suspects currently on intelligence services’ watch lists yet roaming Britain freely.
May’s prior record
As Home Secretary in the UK’s 2010 coalition government, formed by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, Theresa May was very keen on increasing state powers to snoop on citizens’ online activities and telecommunications.
The Lib Dems successfully opposed her first “snoopers charter” bill. But the renamed Investigatory Powers Act finally passed into law in 2016 after the Conservatives achieved a majority government the year before at general election,
Fearing ordinary people?
May, like her European counterparts, interchanges words such as “terrorism” and “extremism” seamlessly. Such an approach can ultimately be used to quell any form of political dissent.
It therefore seems ordinary people’s valid criticisms and concerns could also be stifled to the point of prosecution. Who can doubt that government (control/mind) tries to manage public perceptions, especially during times when ongoing economic austerity or irrational immigration measures threaten public concern?
Meanwhile, UK streets remain vulnerable to jihadists pushing the gas pedal to splatter innocent pedestrians and suicide bombers igniting in busy arenas,
Mrs May and her European colleagues clearly want us to fear our internet. They don’t want ordinary people exchanging and assessing information for ourselves.
The political classes would rather we watched spoon-fed, state-regulated media at this time when a sizeable, hostile army grows in our very midst
May’s approach to censoring terror online is all too understandably tuned to that of a disintegrating European Union.