UK government to imprison viewers of online terror content

Safya Khan-Ruf - 05 10 17
Conservative Party unveils plans to imprison for up to 15 years those who “repeatedly view terrorist content online”.


Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the new law during the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

“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,” she said on Tuesday.

The move is the UK government’s latest attempt to tackle online radicalisation as part of its counter-terrorism strategy, following the increasing number of terrorist attacks in Britain this year.

The intelligence services have noted a shift towards “crude” attacks using home-made weapons rather than well-organised, more complex plots according to Rudd. She added that although five plots were carried out in the UK this year, seven others were blocked.

Tribute to Manchester attack on 22 May which left 22 dead. Courtesy of Transport Pixels/Flickr

The maximum sentence of 15 years could also apply to those who share information about police, intelligence agencies or soldiers in an attempt to organise terrorist attacks.

“There is currently a gap in the law around material 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,” Rudd said.

During an earlier fringe meeting, Rudd admitted she doesn’t understand end-to-end encryption, but still wants to “to find the best way to combat” it, saying tech companies must work with the government.

She criticised the tech industry for its “patronising” attitude that “sneered” at politicians who did not always get it right.

“It’s so easy to be patronised in this business. We will do our best to understand [end-to-end encryption]. We will take advice from other people. But I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right.

“I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how it’s helping the criminals,” she went on. “I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that.”

However Julia Ebner, terrorism expert and author of The Rage: the vicious circle of Islamist and far-right extremism told HOPE not hate that while tech solutions such as banning accounts were needed, educating children and working with civil societies to address radicalisation was more effective in the long term.


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