Policing the internet: Met takes the law into its own hands, seeks to ban offensive emails

This post was written by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on April 29, 2010
Posted Under: Civil Liberties,internet

Over recent weeks I have seen number of posters bearing the logo of the Metropolitan Police on the walls of internet cafes. The one pictured on the right is fairly typical. It tells users that they may not download or even view any material that “causes offense to members of the public”, and that doing so will result in their internet use being terminated and the police being informed. Its not quite clear why the police would or should be informed – given that causing offence does not break the law . Thus it is especially worrying that this poster bears the logo, not of the internet cafe in which it is posted, but of the Met themselves.

To the left is a similar poster I encountered in central london. It tells users that “the owners of these premises are working with the metropolitan police service to prevent unlawful or offensive material being accessed on the internet.” Of course the policing of lawful but offensive material is hardly in the met’s remit. Quite ridiculously, users are told that even accessing emails of a “pornagraphic, violent, extremist or otherwise offensive or inappropriate nature” will result their use will be terminated, and the police potentially being informed. Like the first poster, this one bears the Met’s logo.

What is going on here is not completely clear. The Met know full well that the great mass of pornographic material on internet is not illegal, and therefore not not a matter for the police. They know that political extremism is not outlawed per se, and neither is accessing “offensive and inappropriated” content in an email.

What I do believe is that the Met are trying to achieve a kind of chilling effect.
They know that people – especially the immigrants and visitors who use internet cafes – will be potentially frightened when the prospect of the police action is bandied about. And perhaps they expect people to self-censor beyond what the law strictly requires. As a British citizen I know the law well enough to be relatively unphased by the posters. The other people sitting in the internet cafe with me right now may not. This, of course, is not the first time that the Metropolitan Police have taken a draconian line n the internet, or sought to act, effectively, as judges legislators.

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Reader Comments

Dr Howard Fredrics

There is currently a test case going on. The case of R v Fredrics involves harassment charges against an academic for having posted a website containing factually accurate information about workplace bullying and academic misconduct at a British university. The truthfulness of the site nor its public interest nature is not helpful to Dr Fredrics as a defence, as he has now been convicted of breaching the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Although his conviction was subsequently overturned pending possible retrial, the chilling effect of this prosecution has been very clearly felt throughout academia and elsewhere. To learn more, link to http://www.sirpeterscott.com/

#1 
Written By Dr Howard Fredrics on May 1st, 2010 @ 3:05 pm
AKAZIP

Lordy – you Brits, especially your Stazi, are a constant source of amusement. What scares me, though, is that the morons in DC usually look at the antics of your Met and say ‘hey, that’s a great idea’.

#2 
Written By AKAZIP on May 6th, 2010 @ 5:13 pm
Dylan Dougal

It appears that the UK Police State and our Nazi Communist Governments over the past decade, are determined to control our freedoms, including freedom of speech, freedom to contact each other, read what others think and say. The Police tell us what is not acceptable, and that they will charge us, terminate our Internet Connection. WHO IS POLICING THE POLICE, WHO WILL ACT AGAINTS THEM, WHEN THEY SHOOT INNOCENT PEOPLE LIKE CHALES de MENEZES. TOMLINSON AT THE G20.The numerous people killed by the Police, and nothing happens to them, they are not monitored and held to account. Who is monitoring the Monitors that are monitoring us, to see that they are not breaking the law, or are collating and storing information on us that is illegal and unlawful.
In the 1950s and 1960 we were told how evil Russia was, its people being monitored, visitors to Russia being followed, hotel rooms bugged, telephones being bugged, well we in the UK are now more spied upon than the Russians ever were, we have more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other country in the world, draconian legislation that numerous Local Authority Departments and Government Departments can monitor our telephone records, access and search our homes without warrants. The people of the UK need to waken up. I have seen this before working in countries that monitored and censored its people and the media, well it is much worse here than any of the other Countries I lived and worked in that was spying on its citizens.
The government will tell you that this is necessary because of terrorism, we had the most CCTV cameras in the world per head of population before 9-11 so that argument is lost, the lies about terrorism is just a way for the government to spy and monitor its citizens more, and to tax and exploit them further. The Police State is here, it started in 1979, and it is now almost a complete dictatorship, the Police not being totally out of control, a complete killing machine, in the next few years all Police on our streets will be armed, but we are not allowed to arm ourselves against these state thugs, and government dictators and spies.
Do we have any real leaders? You can recognise them if they are marginalized, slandered and anathema to the mass media. Our real leaders are the people they slander, bankrupt and imprison or kill. Those without guns to defend themselves will, in time, die from those who have them, history is littered with examples.
When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murders, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall, think of it always.

#3 
Written By Dylan Dougal on June 1st, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

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