British Prime Minister Theresa May wasted no time after yesterday’s London Bridge terror attack in announcing that she will be pushing a new series of international agreements aimed at global regulation of speech on the Internet, claiming that extremists have been using “safe spaces online” in their terror attacks.
While this is being couched today as a reaction to the London attack, the reality is that this is a long-standing goal of Britain’s Tory government, with the Conservative Party’s current manifesto vowing efforts to force Internet providers to participate in “counter-extremism” efforts that would tightly regulate speech.
The manifesto’s plan goes well beyond just terrorism, looking to regulate speech broadly defined by the ruling party as “harmful,” and also to severely curtail the access of pornographic materials on the Internet. The pornography angle is, obviously, not being mentioned in connection to the London attack.
London-based privacy and free speech advocacy group the Open Rights Group was quick to criticize May’s effort, and Professor Peter Neumann, the director for the Centre for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London, mocked the effort as “politically convenient but intellectually lazy.”
Either way, it has the major social media companies promising to “do more,” by which they mean more strictly censoring their user base. Most of these companies have hoped such efforts would forestall global government action to censor the Internet outright, though it seems that the bar for acceptable content on the Internet continues to slide further the more they try to self-regulate.