New UK Law Could See Trolls Jailed for Causing ‘Psychological Harm’, Disinfo, Ratioing

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Free speech on the internet will further be curtailed by new proposals set out in the long-dreaded Online Safety Bill, with alleged trolls facing as much as two years in prison for online posts.

Offences added to the legislation will include “pile-ons” in which users band together to troll someone on social media, according to The Times — potentially criminalising ratioing.

Mocking the proposed restrictions, columnist Madeline Grant said: “I feel personally victimised by this bafflingly stupid idea. Can whoever suggested it please be jailed, thanks.”

Based on recommendations from the Law Commission, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) will push for the criminalisation of posts that are “likely [to cause] psychological harm”.

The change in the law would see the emphasis placed on the “harmful effect” of a message, in contrast to the current standard of which criminalises “indecent” or “grossly offensive” material.

Perhaps most concerningly, the bill will also criminalise sharing a supposedly “knowingly false communication” in order to “emotional, psychological, or physical harm to the likely audience”.

Government sources told the paper that an example of such activity would include “anti-vaxers” for spreading information that the state says they know to be false.

The British government has already admitted that during the pandemic it has been flagging anti-vax posts directly to social media companies in order to pressure the tech companies to censor them.

The Defence Cultural Specialist Unit (DCSU) of the British army's 77th Brigade — which was initially founded to combat Islamist propaganda — has also reportedly been monitoring anti-vax groups in order to counteract narratives that go against the government's line on the Chinese coronavirus.

In the wake of the suspected terrorist killing of Sir David Amess MP last month, Conservative MPs have been calling on the government to end online anonymity, despite there being no reported connection between the killing and people insulting MPs anonymously online.

On top of the new restrictions on speech, the Online Safety Bill would seek to regulate social media via the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which already polices television broadcasts.

The move would enable the government to levy heavy fines against social media companies that fail to police speech to the satisfaction of the British state.

Then-Culture and Media Secretary Oliver Dowden said in February that the fines would amount to “billions of pounds”.

In the absence of First Amendment style protections for speech in Britain, successive Conservative governments have followed the lead of previous Labour governments in implementing restrictions on online speech.

One example of the government's campaign against so-called hate speech has seen police record thousands of ‘non-crime hate incidents' in criminal databases, meaning that such non-offences will be visible on background checks, despite the alleged perpetrator not having committed an actual crime or been given an opportunity to fight the accusations against him.

“We are making our laws fit for the digital age,” insisted a government spokesman.

“Our comprehensive Online Safety Bill will make tech companies responsible for people's safety and we are carefully considering the Law Commission's recommendations on strengthening criminal offences.”

 

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