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UK Citizens Could Soon Face Up to 15 years in Prison for Viewing Terrorist Content Online

In Archive, Terrorism, UK on October 3, 2017 at 11:14 PM

10/03/2017

People who repeatedly view terrorist content online could face up to 15 years behind bars in a move designed to tighten the laws tackling radicalisation the home secretary, Amber Rudd, announced on Tuesday.

A new maximum penalty of 15 years’ imprisonment will also apply to terrorists who publish information about members of the armed forces, police and intelligence services for the purposes of preparing acts of terrorism.

The tightening of the law around viewing terrorist material is part of a review of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy following the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks in Britain this year.

Transcript

“I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions, face the full force of the law,” said Rudd. “There is currently a gap in the law around material [that] is viewed or streamed from the internet without being permanently downloaded.

“This is an increasingly common means by which material is accessed online for criminal purposes and is a particularly prevalent means of viewing extremist material such as videos and web pages,” added the home secretary.

The proposed changes will strengthen the existing offence of possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist under section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 so that it applies to material that is viewed repeatedly or streamed online. Currently the power applies only to online material that has been downloaded and stored on the offender’s computer, is saved on a separate device or printed off as a hard copy.

How exactly investigators would be able to determine that a particular individual has repeat-viewed proscribed content is an open question. (But at the end of last year the UK passed a law requiring ISPs keep web activity logs of all users for 12 months.)

Senior officials say that, thanks to technological advances, it has become possible to identify users even if they do not download footage, but that the law has not caught up.

According to the Home Office the updated offence will ensure that only those found to repeatedly view online terrorist material will be guilty of the offence, to safeguard those who click on a link by mistake or who could argue that they did so out of curiosity rather than with criminal intent. A defence of “reasonable excuse” would still be available to academics, journalists or others who may have a legitimate reason to view such material.

But what about smaller independent outlets, like LeakSource, who believe information should not be censored and that the public has a right to know, both for educational and safety purposes. Will resources such as this be safe? Or will they be unjustly charged, bankrupted with defence fees and jailed for years?

And who decides what is terrorist content? Is it only jihadist related material? Is far-left/right content included? Anti-government opinions and activism? If not now, be assured all this and more could be added in the future. A slippery slope indeed. UK does Orwell best.

h/t Guardian/TechCrunch/TheTimes

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