England Cracks Down On Unacceptable Internet Speech

We have been following (here and here and and and here and and here and here) the worsening situation in England concerning free speech. As noted in a recent column, free speech appears to be dying in the West with the increasing criminalization of speech under discrimination, hate, and blasphemy laws. The article below details the crackdown on Internet speech in the country from charging a teenager who made offensive comments about a murder to a man who burned a paper poppy, the symbol of the war dead.

England appears to be on a sharp plunge into censorship and speech crimes. It is a cautionary tale as the West embraces more and more forms of speech regulation. Once in the business of criminalizing speech, these countries find themselves on a slippery slope where more and more speech is declared as unacceptable.

The Associated Press found that the prosecutions for electronic communications rose from 1,263 in 2009 to 1,843 in 2011. We previously discussed the case of Paul Chambers who was prosecuted for complaining about airport closures due to snow.
In October, 19-year-old Matthew Woods was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail for sending offensive tweets about a missing 5-year-old girl.

It is particularly unsettling to see our close cousins in England descend into speech controls. Liberals have long been the advocates of free speech but appear to have developed a taste for censorship and speech crimes — a taste fast becoming an insatiable appetite. The rationale has changed from orthodoxy to pluralism. People are now prosecuted in the name of tolerance. Civil libertarians in England are fighting back but losing ground (despite a couple of favorable court rulings in speech cases).

As an offshoot of that once great English oak, it is particularly unsettling for us to watch this trend from this side of the pond. What is most unsettling is the relative passivity of the English people and the lack of any real debate over this trend in English law. The global community of civil libertarians needs to support those fighting this trend toward criminalization of speech and support our English colleagues.

Source: Fox

31 thoughts on “England Cracks Down On Unacceptable Internet Speech

  1. “What is most unsettling is the relative passivity of the English people and the lack of any real debate over this trend in English law.”

    To me, this is the key. If you take your rights for granted and don’t psh back against those who would erode them, then you’ll eventually lose them. It feels like the battle for free speech (and I think the US is even worse in some other areas such as unwarranted searches) must be fought in the hearts and minds of the populace, and especially in the schools. And, it has to be more than fighting to uphold someone’s right to speech; it has to be persuading why this right to free speech is a good thing.

  2. And, as an aside, shouldn’t you replace “England” with “United Kingdom” and “English” with “British”? Or, if this truly is unique to England and different rules/practices prevail in Scotland, Wales, and/or Northern Ireland, then use a picture of the English flag. Sorry, bit of a pet peeve of mine when people use England and United Kingdom synonomously.

  3. The common denominator in the loss of freedoms everywhere is fear. If you can make your people scared enough, they will passively accept limitations of their freedom.

  4. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your (expletive) together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high.”


    That was a tweet that landed a man in jail….

    That is a threat….. and anyone dumb enough to post that… well…. should probably REALLY think before they write something…..

    That is the problem…. when we talk… we often say something REALLY fast, out of anger…. and we can’t proof read it before it comes out of our mouths….. BUT… when we are making comments or tweets… we can READ this and make sure that this is what we want the WORLD to hear from us…

    when you make a threat… REAL or joking…. The police have no way of knowing if you will follow through with this threat….

    I see people getting worse and worse EVERY DAY….

    People using DEHUMANIZING names against parts of the population…. Things like this, I just don’t think should be covered under freedom of speech….

    Threatening people… Dehumanizing people…..

    The internet has given permission to many to become savages…

    Look at what that one man did to that little girl, Amanda Todd who then killed herself after years of his stalking…..

    Look at those attacks on the Sinkh Community because people thought they were Muslim and felt that it was OK to kill them, because they are just terrorists anyway…..

    The Internet has made ONCE…. very polite people into a bunch of savage brutal bullies….

    I’m not sure what the answers are…. BUT, I do think that something should be done…..

    People think that ANY speech should be protected….

    YET… Yelling fire in a crowded theater is NOT protected…. NOR should it be….

  5. tweets about a missing 5-year-old girl.


    this sick jerk thought it was funny to post some RATHER DISGUSTING things about this girl who had been abducted….. things of a pedophile like nature directed at a 3 year old and 5 year old that were abducted……

    I’m sorry…. BUT, I do NOT feel for this guy…..

    Below are the more mild things he posted on Facebook and twitter…..
    and if you ask me… It is ONE thing to joke amongst your friends in a sick manner… It is a whole different story to YELL to the world the things such as below…..

    and he posted stuff of a sexual nature about 3 and 5 year olds….

    Do you all think this is OK????

    “Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?”

    In another he said: “I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place.”

    He also wrote: “Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument EVER. April fools, who wants Maddie? I love April Jones.”

    Also posted were comments of a more sexually explicit nature.The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed it reviewed the file on Monday morning and was content with the prosecution going ahead.

  6. If you call the Prohphet Mohammed a pedophile for marrying a nine year old girl and having sex with her then you are a blashemists or a feminist having a blast. If you offend Jesus by pronouncing his name like HeyZeus then you offend the English. If you offend the Brits by suggesting that they need a written Bill of Rights in a real Constitutional format then you hit the nail on the head. Dumb schmucks.

  7. Sometimes I think it is FEAR… BUT, others… NO… it is just common decency….

    The other day I read an article about how the Neo-nazi’s were gaining more recruits…

    I thought for SURE that the comments would mostly disagree with the people in the article….

    Ohhhhhh How I could NOT have been more wrong…..

    NOT ONLY did these people go ON and ON and ON about their WHITE Power crap….

    If a woman.. such as myself would debate them… they would talk about how women like me should be raped and tortured…..
    and, mind you… I am giving the VERY PG version of those comments….
    They were vile… and disgusting…. and a bit threatening…..

    I’m sorry… BUT I’ve read a bit about how dehumanizing of people, has been part of why genocide was so easy to commit….

    You dehumanize one minority in a population… and keep doing this…..
    OVER time… the people who are calling the others by dehumanizing names…. those people become NOT human anymore… they are no longer your equal…. They are just the scourge that NEEDS to be removed from the general population…..

    YOU think that can’t happen…. Read about WW2… Rwanda….

    2 instances where one segment of the population was dehumanized over time…. and after a while… people thought it OK to kill them…..

    There are studies on this…..

    and it just takes a bit of logic to understand.. that this is a problem….

    HOWEVER…. speech that can create a danger… like yelling FIRE….

    Threatening speech and hate speech…. I do NOT think should be covered….

  8. NOW… the Teenager burning the paper poppy….

    THAT is going too far…..

    There are people in the USA that would threaten to kill a person who posted a video of an American Flag being burned….

    and I think that is GOING too far…..

  9. Oh no…. When will it make it across the pond….. Oh wait…. Some are trying to do the same exact thing today….. Oh my….

  10. The coming meshnet revolution will make short work of these lawsuits: they cannot be filed. Meshnets are secure and rely on the ever-growing cloud of always-on devices. The only way a country can enforce content restrictions is by leaning on the ISP. Meshnets do away with the ISP, and the communications are always secure. Copyright and blashphemy laws will have zero affect on meshnets. Governments do not yet control the flow of electrons through the air.

    Find a way to get involved with meshnets. They will help save our freedom of speech. The internet today is headed the same direction of broadcast TV: redundant and largely for the easily offended.


  11. @James in LA: No device is “always secure,” if the government feels thwarted they will pass laws prohibiting the use of the meshnets and prosecute into bankruptcy and prison anybody providing the hardware or software that allows them. With no tricks other than big checks or plea deals they will recruit whoever they need to betray the users of meshnets from the inside. Or pay people to infiltrate the groups. Your communications are not “secure” if you do not know the person you are talking to is an FBI agent, FBI plant, or is cooperating with the FBI to prevent a complete ruination of their life.

    Wake up and face reality. There is no easy fix.

  12. Great Britain, England, whatever you call those islands over there, went down hill when Churchill’s grandson admitted that great grandma Jenny Jerome was part iroqois. Had his father been born in America perhaps we would have had him as our President instead of they getting him as Prime Minister. Winston made that suggestion when he addressed Congress during WWII. Those islanders need a written Constitution with a First Amendment that excepts the likes of Citzen United.

  13. Here is some interesting recent ‘free’ speech, from the Gaza Youth Breaks Out group on Facebook- the Gaza Youth Manifesto:

    “”Fk Hamas. Fk Israel. Fk Fatah. Fk UN. Fk UNWRA. Fk USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

    “We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fking situation we live in…

    “We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal-dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

    “There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalising this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.

    “We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the sht out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the Earth. During the last years, Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want.

    “ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bull sht, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?”

  14. The cousin analogy is a good one. I come from a large family and have 45 first cousins…Ct. not Arkansas!! The older cousins were like really big brothers and sisters @ first. But, while I was still a kid, the older cousins got married and were more like uncles and aunts. Relationships change, evolve, devolve. We need to take the lead on this. I believe w/ some nudging and maybe a diplomatic kick in the ass they’ll “get their minds right.” They’re good, solid people..w/ bad teeth.

  15. Waldo,

    Well the English look at the rest with disdain. E2 is never presented here as the queen of the UK or Britain. It is terrible to see the English terror against the rest of the UK in operation. I’ve seen it on business trips in the office there. Secede, make ’em pay for Scotch whiskey and Irish beef,and Welch coal.

  16. James in LA,

    Tony has the societal end covered.

    I studied Meshnet some time ago. Communicating within an island is fine, but then comes the day that the rest of the internet bans you. Your connections will be blocked.

    Cryptography, like TOR shares the same problem, the bits have to be accepted to be transmitted. And that requires more than using the data protocols.

    And as long as a government controls its nation, then they will determine who may use internet.
    Then the islands of Meshnet are isolated.

  17. Shano,

    What hypocrisy our world tolerates. These young people of Gaza remind me of the hopes raised in the beginning of the Egyptian uprising. Gaza existed long before a jewish state, I believe. Now it is worse than the Warsaw ghetto.
    There are no sewers to flee to.

    Unite, get some guns, and free yourselves of Hamas is my only hope for them. Blood shed now is blood saved later.

  18. When Romney/Ryan, GOP does not come out and say the racist/hate comments are unacceptable, this is not what our party is about, when hanging in effigy and shirts saying put the white back in the white house are seen as okay then people feel they can say anything. Free speech needs to stay that but there used to be something called civility and decency.
    Some people said during the election “I am voting for Romney because he will never do the things he says he intends to do”. I think it is same with free speech and the erosion of other of our civil rights. We see it but too many cannot get their heads around the dea that we are slipping down that slope, it is not just theory or empty rhetoric.

  19. There is a HUGE difference between being just plane racist….. and calling for ALL to be wiped out….

    as for the comments the boy made about the little girls….. they did not print the more vile ones that were more sexual in nature…..
    I think if a boy is going to talk like a pedophile….
    he should be treated like a pedophile…..
    he did not just joke with his friends….
    he ANNOUNCED it WIDELY on Twitter and Facebook….

    I have read MANY OFFENSIVE and HATEFUL things…… and myself also being atheist…. I understand that when people talk about their religion and try to ram it down your throat… that is OFFENSIVE…..
    That is NOT the same as talking like a pedophile…. that is not the same as
    saying that some people of certain races should be wiped off the face of the map….
    and again…. it is ALL in the wording…..

    Calling for women to be raped, just because they are not haters of other races…. this is NOT acceptable….

    There is a fine line between being racist and being open about it….
    and saying things that are unacceptable….

    telling somebody you wish they were dead…. is different than saying…. I am going to kill you…..

    That one man who tweeted about the airport and the late flight….
    he said he was going to blow it up…..
    and NO… I do not think that should be protected speech…..
    he made an OPEN threat…
    he may say that was a joke… BUT, MOST SANE people know that is not something you joke about……

    the fact is… there are people who do not understand the difference between a crime against a person… and a hate crime….
    I do see the difference….

    there are people that do not see the difference between being racist… and inciting hate and violence against a race….

    People can point at Europe and think they are NOT doing the right thing when it comes to certain speech… and yes, I think they need to find a way to define it better…..
    BUT… They had Nazi Death Camps on their soil….
    They saw FIRST hand what that kind of incitement of hate and dehumanizing parts of a population can do…..

    Americans think they have free speech… You really don’t…..

    I was once put in jail for telling a cop to f*ck off… That is NOT very free…..

    Heck.. you can’t even say F*ck or many other words on TV… where here in Europe, they can….

    But, like I said… it is one thing to say what you think…. openly state your opinion, even if it is NOT real nice….

    BUT, when you call for violence or dehumanize another culture….
    It has consequences….

  20. “Who in their right mind would abduct a ginger kid?”

    In another he said: “I woke up this morning in the back of a transit van with two beautiful little girls, I found April in a hopeless place.”

    He also wrote: “Could have just started the greatest Facebook argument EVER. April fools, who wants Maddie? I love April Jones.”

    justagurlinseattle – yes I think it is okay. Is it right? Wrong? I don’t know or care. Is it offensive? Obviously to a lot of people – but that doesn’t mean he should be arrested for it. People’s religious beliefs often offend me, and my anti-religious beliefs offend many… If suddenly we put people in jail for being offensive, everybody would be there.

  21. Leejcarrol,

    Well said.

    That slope is like climate change. And then Sandy hits you. Soon there will be possums in NYC due to warming.

    And 1984 will not be ushered in by a great ceremony. Only
    statute by statute, word by word, taser by taser.

  22. Jude,

    Quickly I’m in and gone…..

    Your words on causing offense, but not arrest….

    Reminds me of Lenny Bruce: he offended lots of folks, and got arrested for it. But he pointed to the lies and the truth. Who knows what this “man in the van” was pointing at. If something offends you, be thankful and reflect upon why.

  23. Tony C: “Your communications are not “secure” if you do not know the person you are talking to is an FBI agent, FBI plant, or is cooperating with the FBI to prevent a complete ruination of their life.”

    OK, this covers people. But most data is files. Meshnet technology also allows what should be a part of the internet but is not: verification the receiver is who you intend.

    Were it not for this level of paranoia, meshnets would not be needed.

    “Wake up and face reality. There is no easy fix.”

    I never claimed there. was, so please to moderate your condescension. There will be much push-back but to no avail. Govt will have to seize control of electrons in the air. Do you think they are quite that far along yet?

    Idealist707:”Communicating within an island is fine, but then comes the day that the rest of the internet bans you. Your connections will be blocked.”

    The islands are temporary. Once a critical mass of the them overlap and are always-on, there won’t be any “rest of the internet.” This technology is designed to bypass ISPs on purpose. I have begun using it, and it works quite well. Understand smart phones changed the game. Each one is capable of being a mini-ISP but carriers deliberately dial them back. Once unleashed, they will give us a viable alternative to the top-down internet that was never intended to be so.

    Or shall we just give in?

  24. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/27/the-frightening-things-you-hear-at-a-black-hat-conference/

    July 27, 2012

    The Frightening Things You Hear at a Black Hat Conference


    “ONLINE CENSORSHIP IS GETTING WORSE. “The Internet is becoming less and less flat everyday,” Dan Kaminsky said in a talk Wednesday. Mr. Kaminsky vaulted to fame in 2008 after he uncovered a dangerous flaw in the basic plumbing of the Internet. His next project: ridding the Internet of censorship. “I.S.P.’s and governments are altering content on the Internet every day and, in most cases, it’s done silently,” he said. Mr. Kaminsky said he had been working with anticensorship groups to improve censorship detection by crowdsourcing it to a much larger pool of developers. “My goal is not to run a censorship detection service but to provide what’s already out there by funneling in a much larger data stream and doing it on a much larger scale.””

  25. The expansive use of the word “data” is annoying. A lot of times the schmuck will pronounce it as: daaata not datea. The schmuck is usually some officious fart who is chimning in on a topic that he/she purports to be in command of.

  26. Just, it’s not a good idea to tell cops they’re acting like children….either.:)

    Under some circumstances that can be an exceedingly poor choice of words..

    Especially when the speaker had just recently himself been acting like an 8 year old. …..OOPs.

  27. Shano,

    I bookmarked that, plus the article in the guardian. In my small world of comprehending global politics, this is the first time I have heard the voice of Palestinian youth and their concern for their future. It went directly to my brain, and immediately to my heart. Sometimes truth is so pure, the filters of cynicism in my brain are not necessary.

    One quote:
    “sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on”

    Old rigid repetitiously deluded minds, have chosen the “status quo” as their playbook. Satisfied with being “right” in the past they plan to be equally satisfied in the future by repeating their mistakes.This is SAD.

    Youth sees the stupidity of rigid repetitive thinking. They have not drank long enough at the wells of their fathers ignorance. They have not yet succumbed to the fatalism of their mothers indoctrinated submissions.

    Fly youth be seen be heard, while the body of your innocence can cast a shadow between a shiny future and all these old rigid bricked up souls of expired dreams.

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