British prime minister David Cameron is planning to fast track new plans that will allow police to vet the online communications of anyone considered to be an extremist.
The national security council are to have new powers which will be used against those considered to be extremist individuals, including anyone that may pose a risk to public order or a threat to democratic functioning. These powers were originally proposed in March but were vetoed, however David Cameron is planning to now push the plans through using the Conservative majority along with the fact that the ideas were proposed in the Liberal Democrat manifesto.
Under the new plans, police would be allowed to ask for an order from the higher courts that would prevent extremists from broadcasting and every tweet, Facebook post or email would be send to the police for approval. Posts telling friends that their communications are being approved by the police or denying extremism claims would also be sent to the police for vetting.
Groups would also be banned from gathering in public places and using hate speech even if they are generally well behaved and don’t warrant being banned altogether.
In addition to the new powers given to the police, Ofcom would also have powers that would allow it to regulate its channels in a stronger way. This would apply to television, broadcasting and telecommunications firms too.
The new counter-extremism plans have already had their fair share of critics, such as civil liberties groups who believe the extremism ban may be extended to anyone. This could include groups such as protestors which the government doesn’t agree with.
The new proposals form part of a Conservative plan designed to oppose extremism which has been laid out by Theresa May. The plans are said to be discussed further at the NSC, a minister forum which debates national security objectives.
The new laws will be proposed in the Queen’s speech on 27th May, which has already been set out along with David Cameron’s introduction to the increased powers. The Queen is planned to say “We will introduce legislation to combat groups and individuals who reject our values and promote messages of hate. We will empower institutions to stand up against the extremists and challenge bigotry and ignorance. And we will support those who are fighting back against extremism online.”
While David Cameron will say “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”
In addition to the counter-extremism plans due to be announced on 27th May, the conservatives will revive a bill named the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ which was prevented during the time of coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives are planning to bring back the bill and add new powers that will force internet service providers to keep information about their users and send it along to intelligence services.
The Snooper’s Charter law, officially known as the Draft Communications Data Bill, has been controversial and will force internet service providers to retain large amounts of data relating to their customers and their online habits.
Campaigners and computing experts have been the main opposition to the law, aside from the Liberal Democrats, which was due to be passed in 2014 before being blocked. David Cameron has said that the government should be allowed to read all forms of communication in order to keep citizens safe from threats including terrorist attacks, bombings and shootings.
The new Snoopers Charter could cause havoc for wider internet security as ISPs rely on encryption to keep the data of their users safe from hackers. Under the new laws, encryption may be banned or regulated which could leave data without the level of security it needs to prevent information falling into the wrong hands or being used unlawfully.
While the issue of security is a big one, many are worried that the new systems needed by the police and internet service providers will trickle down to the public who will have to pay in more in taxes and higher internet bills in order to fund the laws.