The Home Secretary has promised to take on the laid-back attitude of many social networks including YouTube and Twitter towards online extremism by including Extremist Disruption Orders (EDO) in the 2015 Conservative manifesto, which will target hate-preachers who skirt around present laws.
The Conservatives, who are keen to appear tough on extremism and terrorism in the UK will criminalise individuals who act with “the purpose of overthrowing democracy”, and will prevent them from from appearing on television or radio, fundraise for extremist groups, and even free use of social media, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Although the policy is far from fully fleshed-out, there are already clear civil liberties implications, and concerns about the costs and practicalities of implementation. Emma Carr, director of civil liberties think tank Big Brother Watch said the policy could easily affect a far wider group of people than just Islamic terror sympathisers: “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.
“In a democratic country, it is wholly wrong for people to be labelled an ‘extremist’ and face having major restrictions placed on their freedom without facing a due legal process and a transparent and accountable system”.
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and a host of less well known sites including ВКонтакте and pastebin have become crucial recruiting tools for Islamic extremists in recent years, and the laissez-faire attitude of many sites towards content has allowed this to flourish. By introducing EDO’s, Home Secretary Theresa May hopes to give the authorities the ability to pre-vet social media postings by known extremists in the UK, to prevent them from reaching a wider audience.
When Breitbart London spoke to a government cyber analyst on the potential ramifications of this policy, they expressed concern at the scope of EDOs. The source, who requested to not be named said: “If the tweet vetting was done manually, you’d need a significant staff to monitor the output of known British extremists. If the system was automated, there is always the risk of ‘false flags’, which could impinge upon legitimate tweets and affect freedom of speech. In either case, it would be extremely expensive and difficult to implement”.
The cyber-expert also had doubts about the potential legal difficulties associated with implementing the scheme. He said: “Twitter is an American company and largely outside of British legal jurisdiction. We see this problem with the endless legal chase of Pirate-Bay, and the European Union’s attempts to censor Google. EDOs would presumably also have no power over British citizens abroad, and social media posts by proxy”.
The plan remains conceptual at this stage and relies upon being included in the Conservative Party Manifesto, and a Conservative victory at next year’s general election.