Current situation

Internet customers in the UK are prohibited from accessing a range of web sites by default, because they have their Internet access filtered by their ISPs. The filtering program has applied to new ISP customers since the end of 2013, and has been extended to existing users on a rolling basis. A voluntary code of practice agreed by all four major ISPs means that customers have to ‘opt out’ of the ISP filtering to gain access to the blocked content.However, the complex nature of the active monitoring systems means that users cannot usually opt out of the monitoring and re-routing of their data traffic, something which may render their data security vulnerable. The range of content blocked by ISPs can be varied over time. Categories blocked across the major ISPs include: Dating, Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco, File sharing, Gambling, Games, Pornography, Nudity, Social networking,Suicide and Self-harm, Weapons and violence, Obscenity, Criminal Skills, Hate, Media Streaming, Fashion and Beauty, Gore,Cyberbullying, Hacking and Web-blocking circumvention tools.

Politics and extremism

The main focus of political censorship in UK law is concerned with the prevention of political violence. Hence incitement to ethnic or racial hatred is a criminal offence in the UK and those who create racist websites are liable to prosecution. Incitement to hatred against religions is an offence in England and Wales under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006. Holocaust denial is not an offence per se unless it contravenes other laws. Other legal exceptions to the principle of freedom of speech include the following:

  • Treason including advocating for the abolition of the monarchy (which cannot be successfully prosecuted) or compassing or imagining the death of the monarch.
  • Sedition.
  • Incitement to terrorism including encouragement of terrorism, dissemination of terrorist publications and glorifyingterrorism.
  • Collection or possession of a document or record containing information likely to be of use to a terrorist. Possession ofInspire magazine has been successfully prosecuted under Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

The Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), which was set up in 2010 by the Association of Chief Police Officers and run by the Metropolitan Police Service, maintains a list of sites and content that in their opinion incites or glorifies terrorist acts under Section 3 of the Terrorism Act 2006. This list is passed to the public estate institutions so that access to the sites can be blocked. ISPs BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media incorporate the CTIRU block list into their filters. CTIRU also issues removal requests if the Internet content hosted in the UK . The UK is the only country in the world with such a unit.

Home Office proposals in 2006 requiring ISPs to block access to articles “glorifying terrorism” were rejected and the government opted for a takedown approach at that time. However, in December 2013 the Prime Minister’s Extremism task force proposed that where such material is hosted overseas, ISPs should block the websites, and David Cameron gave orders that the CTIRU list be extended to UK ISPs. The UK government has defined extremism as: “Vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.”

This approach to web blocking has been criticised for being extra-parliamentary and extrajudicial and for being a proactive process where authorities actively seek out material to ban. Additionally, concerns have been expressed by ISPs and freedom of speech advocates that these measures could lead to the censorship of content that is “extremist” but not illegal. Indeed, the United Kingdom security minister James Brokenshire said in March 2014 that the government should also deal with material “that may not be illegal but certainly is unsavoury and may not be the sort of material that people would want to see or receive”.

In September 2014 Home Secretary Theresa May (now PM) proposed the introduction of Extremism Disruption Orders. These would allow judges to ban people who are deemed extremists (but who “do not break laws”) from broadcasting, protesting in designated places or posting messages on Social Media.

BUT how is terrorism defined? 

The Human Rights Act, introduced by the former Labour government, has played a crucial role in restricting the scope of counter-terrorism measures in Britain.

It enshrined the European Convention on Human Rights in domestic law for the first time, and came into force in October 2000.

Less than a year later, the Government had to draw up emergency anti-terror laws in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the United States – and ministers found they were left with one arm tied behind their backs.

The 2001 legislation allowed terror suspects to be detained without charge – leading it to be described by Amnesty International as “draconian” – but by 2004, the House of Lords had declared it incompatible with human rights.

The Human Rights Act has also had a major influence upon which foreign terror suspects can be deported from Britain for preaching hate, or actually planning an atrocity, meaning that figures such as Abu Hamza and Abu Qatada span out their appeals for years rather than facing swift removal.

Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence at Buckingham University, said: “The UK has more highly-developed anti-terror laws than almost any other country in the free world.

“We have been very careful with regard to lawfulness and ensuring that wherever possible Muslims do not feel discriminated against.

“We have tried to make extremism something that is just not worth the risk, but despite all this we are clearly still generating jihadists.”

Prof Glees added: “I have come to the view that we have been too susceptible to the civil liberties lobby – people who say we are a multi-cultural society and two sets of core values can sit happily side-by-side in the UK.

“We have let people go around this country preaching extremism and violence under to guise of religion and free speech.

“We need to look again at our counter-terrorism measures, particularly to clamp down on radical preachers.”

How do Britain’s counter-terrorism policies compares with other countries around the world?

United States

The “Patriot Act” passed in 2001 is one of the principal pieces of legislation in the US.

It grants federal authorities a wide range of powers to carry out surveillance, interception, security and deal with money-laundering.

The US has a crucial tool which Britain does not – the ability to use evidence from telephone taps in court.

Successive British governments have declined to grapple with the problem of telephone “intercept” evidence.

It means intelligence gathered by GCHQ, the government listening post, cannot be used to prosecute criminals in this country.

Further, sentences for terrorism in the US are generally far tougher than most handed down in Britain – for example, offenders can receive sentences of 100 years-plus.


Australia has adopted a version of control orders – the system originally devised in Britain.

The Australian system was drawn up in 2005 along with a number of other tough anti-terror powers.

Several of the laws which would almost certainly have faced legal challenge if the territory had been within the jurisdiction of the European Convention on Human Rights.

For example, “preventative detention” can be imposed on individuals without evidence.

Anyone over 16 can be detained for up to 14 days “where there is a threat of an imminent terrorist attack and the order might help prevent it, or immediately after a terrorist act if it is likely vital evidence will be lost”.

The Australian version of control orders, closely modelled on the British system which was repealed due to legal difficulties in 2011, remains in force.

The Australian orders provide for restrictions including tagging and limits on association and access to telephones and electronic equipment.


As with the British experience of Northern Ireland, Spain has a highly-developed set of anti-terror measures due to domestic terrorism by Eta, the Basque separatists.

The measures are incorporated into the general criminal code.

Because the country has a civil law system rather than a common law system as in Britain, its approach differs significantly.

For example, terror suspects can be detained by an examining magistrate prior to charge and can even order that suspects are held incommunicado, without a lawyer, for days.

In the 1980s, the Spanish government took an extremely hard-line approach to Eta terrorists, with the official illegal funding of Antiterrorist Liberation Groups – or death squads to assassinate separatists.


The Socialist government is pursuing stronger laws to deal with its citizens travelling abroad to take part in jihad in Syria and other countries.

Under the Bill, individuals suspected of terrorism will be banned from traveling abroad for up to six months, and could have their passports confiscated.

The measures mirror legislation which already exists in this country.



LAST WEEK, A MAJOR censorship controversy erupted when Facebook began deleting all posts containing the iconic photograph of the Vietnamese “Napalm Girl” on the ground that it violated the company’s ban on “child nudity.” Facebook even deleted a post from the prime minister of Norway, who posted the photograph in protest of the censorship. As outrage spread, Facebook ultimately reversed itself — acknowledging “the history and global importance of this image in documenting a particular moment in time” — but this episode illustrated many of the dangers I’ve previously highlighted in having private tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google become the arbiters of what we can and cannot see.

Having just resolved that censorship effort, Facebook seems to be vigorously courting another. The Associated Press reports today from Jerusalem that “the Israeli government and Facebook have agreed to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network.” These meetings are taking place “as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence.” In other words, Israel is about to legislatively force Facebook to censor content deemed by Israeli officials to be improper, and Facebook appears eager to appease those threats by working directly with the Israeli government to determine what content should be censored.

The joint Facebook-Israel censorship efforts, needless to say, will be directed at Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians who oppose Israeli occupation. The AP article makes that clear: “Israel has argued that a wave of violence with the Palestinians over the past year has been fueled by incitement, much of it spread on social media sites.” As Alex Kane reported in The Intercept in June, Israel has begun actively surveilling Palestinians for the content of their Facebook posts and even arresting some for clear political speech. Israel’s obsession with controlling Palestinians’ use of social media is motivated by the way it has enabled political organizing by occupation opponents; as Kane wrote: “A demonstration against the Israeli occupation can be organized in a matter of hours, while the monitoring of Palestinians is made easier by the large digital footprint they leave on their laptops and mobile phones.”

Notably, Israel was represented in this meeting with Facebook by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, an extremist by all measures who has previously said she does not believe in a Palestinian state. Shaked has “proposed legislation that seeks to force social networks to remove content that Israel considers to be incitement,” and recently boasted that Facebook is already extremely compliant with Israeli censorship demands: “Over the past four months Israel submitted 158 requests to Facebook to remove inciting content,” she said, and Facebook has accepted those requests in 95 percent of the cases.

All of this underscores the severe dangers of having our public discourse overtaken, regulated, and controlled by a tiny number of unaccountable tech giants. I suppose some people are comforted by the idea that benevolent Facebook executives like Mark Zuckerberg are going to protect us all from “hate speech” and “incitement,” but — like “terrorism” — neither of those terms have any fixed meanings, are entirely malleable, and are highly subject to manipulation for propagandistic ends. Do you trust Facebook — or the Israeli government — to assess when a Palestinian’s post against Israeli occupation and aggression passes over into censorship-worthy “hate speech” or “incitement”?

While the focus here is on Palestinians’ “incitement,” it’s actually very common for Israelis to use Facebook to urge violence against Palestinians, including settlers urging “vengeance” when there is an attack on an Israeli. Indeed, as the Washington Post recently noted, “Palestinians have also taken issue with social-media platforms, saying they incite violence and foster an Israeli discourse of hatred, racism and discriminatory attitudes against Palestinians.”

In 2014, thousands of Israelis used Facebook to post messages “calling for the murder of Palestinians.” When an IDF occupying soldier was arrested for shooting and killing a wounded Palestinian point blank in the head last year,IDF soldiers used Facebook to praise the killing and justify that violence, with online Israeli mobs gathering in support. Indeed, Justice Minister Shaked herself — now part of the government team helping Facebook determine what to censor — has used Facebook to post astonishingly extremist and violence-inducing rhetoric against Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his other top ministers have done the same. As Al Jazeera America detailed in 2014:

The hate speech against Arabs that gathered momentum on Facebook and Twitter soon spilled out onto the streets of Jerusalem as extremist Israelis kicked up violence and caused chaos. This violence then made its way back online: YouTube and Facebook videos show hundreds of angry Israeli mobs running around chanting, “Death to Arabs,” and looking for Palestinians to attack. A video of an Israeli Jew attacking a Palestinian on a public bus shouting, “Filthy Arabs, filthy Arab murderers of children,” emerged from Tel Aviv. And more video footageshowing Israeli security forces using excessive force on a handcuffed Palestinian-American boy further called into question who was really inciting this chaos.

Can anyone imagine Facebook deleting the posts of prominent Israelis calling for increased violence or oppression against Palestinians? Indeed, is it even possible to imagine Facebook deleting the posts of Americans or western Europeans who call for aggressive wars or other forms of violence against predominantly Muslim countries, or against critics of the West? To ask the question is to answer it. Facebook is a private company, with a legal obligation to maximize profit, and so it will interpret very slippery concepts such as “hate speech” and “inciting violence” to please those who wield the greatest power. It’s thus inconceivable that Facebook would ever dream of deleting this type of actual advocacy or incitement of violence:


In my conclusion use tor browser, i2p or freenet regardless of activity don’t give away all of your freedom.