Criminalizing Online 'Hate Speech' Worries Londoners

Published July 17th, 2018 - 11:43 GMT
London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, has been under fire for his approach toward freedom of speech in London. (AFP/File Photo)
London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, has been under fire for his approach toward freedom of speech in London. (AFP/File Photo)

Media reports on the increasing number of people being indicted with “online crimes of speech” in London seemed to raise concerns among Londoners over the zero-tolerance policy imposed to tackle all forms of online hate speech in 2016 by the government.

A noticeable increase has been recorded in the number of people being arrested for online crimes of speech in London, raising the number arrests over the past five years to 2,500 for allegedly sending offensive messages via social media, according to the Register.

Meanwhile, the idea of criminalizing online hate speech fueled debates among Brits, as some might see it as curbing the freedom of speech or limiting it in a diverse country like the UK.

Many calls have been rising on London calling the mayor, Sadiq Khan to resign, as he is the one who revived the online crimes law in 2016.

The mayor’s office imposed in 2016 a law to criminalize any hate speech committed online. The law holds anyone who breaches Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 accountable in danger of facing jail for up to six months or being fined of up to £5,000.

The law defines illegal communication as “using public electronic communications network in order to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety”. According to Vocativ, among many recently arrested was a Scottish citizen who had posted hate speech about Syrian refugees on his Facebook page.

The main aim behind the law is to reduce crime rates triggered by online hate speech, however, local reports in the UK indicated that the number of hate crimes that occur in London has soared noticeably in the pace of 2017.

London mayor’s two-faced free speech approach has been under fire in the last few days.

It comes after he approved an orange “Baby Trump” blimp to fly last week during Trump’s visit to the UK, while he is the one who imposed a law on criminalizing any act of hate speech.

Also, news on banning a pro-Trump protest in London during the last week had raised questions over Khan’s policy in tackling hate speech and freedoms. It should be noted that the pro-Trump demonstration did go ahead in the end.

Many people went to express their fears that London might become more of the Middle East in curbing freedoms.

Defending his measures, Khan said it is crucial towards preventing hatred in London.

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