Posted by Sam Fenny - Memes and headline comments by David Icke Posted on 7 June 2023

The Sound of Silence: Law Enforcement’s Role in Curtailing Free Speech

Introduced in April 2019, the Online Harms White Paper outlined the UK government’s plan to make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online.”

The proposal recommends establishing a new independent regulator for social media sites, platforms, and other online services.

Companies would be legally required to take action against a defined set of online harms, ranging from illegal activity and content to behaviors that are harmful but not necessarily illegal.

While protecting users, particularly children, from online harm is paramount, critics argue that the White Paper’s language is vague and extremely suppressive.

For example, one provision addresses “disinformation” and “fake news” without providing a clear definition for these terms, leading to worries that it could be manipulated to curtail free speech.

Countering Extremism:

The 2015 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act is another significant piece of legislation.

Under the Act, public bodies have the legal duty to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism, a policy known as the Prevent duty.

While it is undoubtedly vital to protect national security, this law’s implementation has raised concerns about its impact on free speech, particularly within educational institutions.

There have been numerous instances where schools and universities have been accused of overzealous application of this duty, thereby inhibiting lawful discussion and debate.

For instance, in 2015, a postgraduate student at the University of Reading was reported to the university’s security team for reading an academic textbook on terrorism for his course in the library, highlighting the potential for the Prevent duty to limit academic freedom.

Police & Courts:

There have been several high-profile instances in the UK where the police or courts have been accused of curtailing free speech. One example that sparked significant debate concerns the case of Mark Meechan, more commonly known by his YouTube alias, Count Dankula.

In 2018, Meechan was convicted by a Scottish court of being “grossly offensive,” a violation of the Communications Act 2003, for a video he posted on YouTube.

In the video, he trained his girlfriend’s pug to raise its paw in response to phrases such as “Sieg Heil” and “gas the Jews.”

Meechan claimed the video was a joke intended to annoy his girlfriend, but the court questionably found the content went beyond the boundaries of free speech and could incite hatred.

The case sparked significant controversy and debate.

Critics of the court’s decision argued that, while the video might have been offensive to some, Meechan’s right to freedom of speech should have protected his ability to make the video without facing legal consequences.

Supporters of the decision, however, argued that the potential for the video to incite anti-Semitic hatred meant it was appropriate for the court to take action.

This case serves as a reminder of the tension between the right to free speech and the responsibility to prevent hate speech that exists in many democracies today.

It also highlights the ongoing frightening debates about how to regulate speech in an increasingly digital world, where content can quickly reach a global audience.

British libel laws have a long history of being exploited to stifle free speech. In the UK, the burden of proof traditionally falls on the defendant, meaning that they are guilty until proven innocent.

This can lead to a ‘chilling effect’, where people are deterred from speaking out due to the risk of costly legal battles.

A notable example is Dr. Peter Wilmshurst, a British cardiologist who was sued for libel by medical device company NMT Medical in 2007.

Wilmshurst had publicly raised concerns about the efficacy and safety of one of the company’s heart devices.

The case, which lasted for several years and nearly bankrupted Wilmshurst, highlighted the potential for British libel laws to inhibit open scientific discussion and criticism that is in the public interest.

While there have been reforms to UK libel laws in the last decade, including the Defamation Act 2013, concerns remain that these laws can still be used to suppress free speech.

Read More: The Sound of Silence: Law Enforcement’s Role in Curtailing Free Speech

The Trap

From our advertisers