British Move Toward Censoring “Unsavory” Internet Speech

220px-JamesBrokenshireHomeOfficeI have repeatedly written on the alarming erosion of free speech in the United Kingdom, particularly as a result of hate speech and anti-discriminatory regulations (here and here and here). Now, Security and Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, has stated that the government is not content with censoring language viewed as terroristic but wants to remove “”unsavoury” content.” He acknowledges that such content is not illegal but express a desire to sanitize the web of such speech. Brokenshire is an example of the insatiable appetite for censorship that develops once you allow the government to control speech. You can almost hear the “harrumph” and “hear, hear” to get the diminishing measure of free speech in England.

Brokenshire is quoted as saying that the government must do more to shape the dialogue of citizens by censoring content that is objectionable: “that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive.” He also wants more private censorship from media sites to keep nasty material from appearing.

Brokenshire is the new face of authoritarian measures in the post-9-11 age. New demands for censorship are now cloaked in expression of tolerance and pluralism. It is an appeal to the majority in asking citizens to impose limits on their own freedoms. It brings new meaning to the comment by Ralph Waldo Emerson that “Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors.”

52 thoughts on “British Move Toward Censoring “Unsavory” Internet Speech

  1. Paul, a wink and a smile is probably wise when you call me silly “girl”. However it does not reflect well on you as a sincere commenter interested in honest discussion. I’m usually suspicious of those who smile a little bit too much.

  2. Geometry lends some clarity on what the British are doing here.

    The slippery slope is so steep because it is undefined

    • annie – given your actions and comments about me and others, you need to reread the civility rules.

  3. Nicky,

    We’re you in the French Army? Were you the first or second on duty to drop your rifle when the invading National Democratic Party of Germany took over?

  4. Civility and Decorum Policy:

    This blog is committed to the principles of free speech and, as a consequence, we do not ban people simply because we disagree with them. Indeed, we value different perspectives and do not want to add another “echo chamber” to the Internet where we each repeat or amplify certain views. However, the Turley blog was created with a strong commitment to civility, a position that distinguishes us from many other sites. We do not tolerate personal attacks or bullying. It is strictly forbidden to use the site to publish research regarding private information on any poster or guest blogger. There are times when a poster reveals information about themselves as relevant to an issue or their experiences. That is fine and is sometimes offered to broaden or personalize an issue. For example, I am open about my background and any current cases to avoid questions of conflicts or hidden agendas. However, researching people or trying to strip people of anonymity is creepy and will not be allowed.

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    We do allow comments as well as anonymity, which some sites have disallowed. It is a curious thing how anonymity will unleash vile and dark impulses in people. Yet, anonymity is part of free speech and, while we have discussed eliminating anonymous comments due to abuses, we are trying to preserve this important element to free speech. It is possible to be anonymous but not obnoxious.

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  5. nick and catchim – had it not been for the bravery of the French army fighting to hold off Rommel and Runstedt, the British Army would never have escaped Dunkirk. During Rommel’s blitzkrieg across France, DeGualle led a flanking attack that almost stopped him. The reason the Germans stopped before taking out the British and Dunkirk was because the German high command was afraid of another flanking attack on their extended supply line. DeGualle and the French Army saved the British Army from capture.

  6. Everything in moderation. Including moderation.
    Civility is a fine doctrine. So is Catholicism, Islam, Bhuddhism, and other doctrines. Just don’t tread on free speech.

    • Paul: The fact of the matter is that “moderation” is a very subjective term in all spheres of life and in some sphere so is “Free Speech”.

  7. Paul: If I were you, I would read about the Sikh soldiers in the British Army, the only lot to stand and fight even in France among other countries in the world.

    • Teji Malik – I looked up the Sikhs and do not see a reference to them during Dunkirk. I know they were both brave and valued soldiers for the British Empire. However, most of their work seems to have been done in India and the surrounding territories. If you have a good reference, please post it.

      • Paul: Sikhs fought all around, the world not just in India. One can find pictures of them tearing down swastika, there are tombstones of the dead Sikh soldiers all over Europe including France, Belgium, Ital etc. etc. Here is a little thing I found. One can find a lot more via Google, I am sure:

        Two World Wars and the Sikhs‎
        During WW-1, it fought in China, France and Belgium-Flanders at Ypres twice … Force in 1940 campaign which ended in the evacuation from Dunkirk (France). … “In the last two world wars 83,005 turban wearing Sikh soldiers were killed and …

        • Teji – found it. There was a company of Sikhs at Dunkirk. According to the British order of battle that would be between 80-225 men led by a captain (smaller group) or major (larger group). I am sure they fought bravely.

  8. I posted a link to this discussion on a British talkboard, NotTheTalk.

    FYI: NotTheTalk formed after the Guardian Newspaper (where the Snowden revelations originally surfaced) folded up its comment blogs. If you’re interested in what the rest of the world thinks about, and about American foreign policy, this is a good place to start.

  9. Re: Wayne knows now why people wanted to leave the UK to form a new government department . Really knowledgable Americans learned after 4th grade that every Brit does have freedom of speech and freedom of the press to express cultural opinions , A lot of thinking Brits denounce their warrior ancestors as self indulgent colonial land grabbers and knows the American Revolutionary War was necessary for every democracy to flourish.
    Anthony Burgess described the UK as “the land of good pubs and great TV ” but this boring Brit bashing is a unsavory cultural throwback . The US -UK cultural exchange will become Orwell -accepting indeed if we can only repeat trite childish phrases .

    • UK is the country where celebrities can have their court cases sealed and hidden from the press. The Child Protective Services works though secret courts were the parents are not allowed and then when the child is taken, the parents are given a press gag order. Why are we not surprised about this new move at censorship?

    • wisely,

      The freedoms of press and speech that you proudly proclaim are the very ones now under attack. And when I was studying Britain’s freedoms in the 4th grade are you suggesting that these freedoms existed at the time of the American Revolution?

      It now seems as if Britain would like to re-visit the 18th century under the guise of removing “unsavory content” from the internet. So yes, I can absolutely understand why our original founders wanted to leave a repressive government, which is what Britain is now becoming.

  10. Do Gurkas who fought with the Brits get confused here with Sikhs? I saw Gurkas in Nepal and have a Gurka knife. It is quite a piece.

  11. Wayne,
    The after 4th grade learning I refer to was more cultural understanding through music and TV and art .
    . The Brits have been under a stressful months of negotiating against a constriction and re shaping of the press but it’s not much worse than the US consolidation of cable companies like Comcast .
    I love the factual tale of John Adams, who successfully defended British Army individuals when they were accused of fearfully shooting without orders into a resentful out of control mob in Boston . There were fatalities but Adams got most of the soldiers acquitted
    Why was that not emphasized in history books, the birth of American justice before 1776 instead of the sleazy exceptions like Benedict Arnold ?, Having fair and just courts is what makes democracies thrive for every country .
    I find it fascinating that the word “chauvinistic ” originally meant excessive nationalism Have a nice multi cultural day day, Wayne !

  12. The morale of this is that soldiers should never fire into a crowd even or especially when both the angry mob and the military /police /militia are panicking. God bless JohnAdams who as an early American gave the world a needed legal lesson . Everyone , included the hated British Army in Boston two hundred years ago, is entitled to a fair trial

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