Cameron Government Moves To Impose Speech Code On English Universities

David_Cameron_official150px-royal_coat_of_arms_of_the_united_kingdom-svgA proposed British law creates a serious threat to academic freedom and free speech. The law seeks to force universities to take action to stop young people being exposed to extremist ideas and speakers. The law is consistent with a trend toward greater speech regulation in the West As I discussed in column yesterday in the Washington Post.

We have seen a crackdown on free speech in the West. For other recent columns, click here and here and here.

This law is part of the government’s counter-terrorism and security bill and imposes a new obligation on universities, prisons and probation services, schools and health authorities to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. Schools would not have to perform risk assessments on visiting speakers, including checking the content of any speeches or debates beforehand, to ensure they are not promoting “extremist” or “radical” ideas.

A Home Office consultation paper insisted that universities “must take seriously their responsibility to exclude those promoting extremist views that support or are conducive to terrorism.” This new “responsibility” includes reporting students “at risk” of being drawn into terrorism to external anti-radicalization programmes and to actively challenge extremist ideas, including non-violent extremism.

This ill-conceived measure would drive into the heart of academic freedom and turn universities into agents of the government in censoring speech. Universities are based on a foundation of free speech. Indeed, the lack of success of governments in France, England, Canada and other countries in increasing speech regulation should, if anything, cause a review of their own approach. It is better for such ideas to be voiced and answered rather than suppressed. More importantly, you do not answer those who would deny freedom by curtailing it.

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws.

England’s premier educational institution have been a critical part of its national identity and contribution to the world. This law is a concession not a confrontation for extremists. They want to deny free speech and this law shows that the greatest injuries in the war against terror tends to be self-inflicted.

Source: The Guardian