MOSCOW, 10 Nov 2021, RUSSTRAT Institute.
The UK has taken a colossal step towards digital fascism after the government’s Legal Commission, designed to reform English law, proposed introducing new types of criminal offences into the upcoming draft “Online Safety Bill”. According to them, almost any British, and in the future, foreign user of social networks, can be sentenced to two years in prison.
In a story that began as London’s rivalry with global Internet corporations for the crown of the main censor on the web, predictably there were extremes – ordinary citizens. To make matters worse, the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is drafting the bill, does not seem like it will be limited only to Her Majesty’s subjects. It thinks of Britain, no more, no less, as a “champion of the forces of good”, from which the whole world should adopt “advanced” digital values, turning them into its own standards.
So it makes sense to find out what new atrocities British bloggers will soon be punished for — and what London has in store for the rest of humanity.
Britain, 21st century
The key decision of the Law Commission at the Royal Ministry of Justice was the revision of the concept of “probable psychological damage” that people are able to inflict on each other on the Internet. Such will now be considered not “hate speech” (also a very controversial concept, but at least amenable to codification), but a kind of “malicious effect” from a particular post, tweet or like.
The Department of Digital has already adopted the relevant recommendations of the commission, and very soon the British regulatory body Ofcom will begin to evaluate the entire blogosphere of the kingdom not by content, but by vague and extremely subjective signs of “harmful effects” on people. As soon as in December, the government will submit the innovation to parliament for consideration, The Times reports.
In total, three new crimes are being introduced. The first is “threatening communications”. This is not necessarily a promise of physical violence in the spirit of “I will kill you!” coming directly from the author of the comment on the social network. It is enough that they intend to frighten the interlocutor with one or another third-party threat, even ephemeral.
The second is “knowingly false communication” that causes the audience “emotional, psychological or physical harm” (!). It is unclear exactly how such harm will be calculated. But it is known who will be dragged to court first: as an example of such a crime, The Times sources in the British government cite “fake information from anti-vaxxers”. In the near future in England they will start to jail people for this.
Specially hired people will decide what contradicts the “current agenda” and what stands up to the “party line”. For example, an ex-employee of Google, BBC Worldwide and the Bank of England, Gill Whitehead, who has just been appointed the new executive director of the Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum, an office under the umbrella of Ofcom. A perfect example of how the state, finance and Internet corporations join forces to censor the network.
But perhaps the most surprising crime will soon be considered “collective trolling” (pile-on). It’s not just about Internet bullying, that is, victim harassment on the Internet, but about any sufficiently massive response to a particular post, tweet or comment, the author of which considered themselves offended by the “troll attack”. Moreover, they can be held accountable even for the usual repost of someone’s post, if its author is subsequently obstructed by third parties.
Let’s say you quote some politician on Twitter with an innocent postscript: “Just look what he said!” Your followers follow the link and write nasty things there. A politician who has experienced a terrible moral shock sues you as an instigator of harassment — and now you are already in prison. In any case, it is precisely this kind of abuse that numerous critics of the Online Safety Bill in the UK fear.
Here it is necessary to understand the context in which the odious bill is being discussed in the United Kingdom. Less than a month has passed since the murder of Sir David Amess, a Conservative MP who died on the spot from stab wounds at a meeting with voters in the town of Leigh-on-Sea. The killer is an Islamist from Somalia. But the press is not discussing him, but websites like TheyWorkForYou of the mySociety charity organisation, which tells in detail how and for what certain members of parliament voted.
So, a number of commentators in the media of the kingdom, including members of parliament, speak out in the spirit that the Internet is too dangerous! They say that first “keyboard warriors spraying poison” incite hatred towards politicians, and then murderers with knives “undermine the health of democracy”. Yes, this is Britain, the 21st century…
Thus, the new bill turns into an axe, which does not even have to be used — it is enough to keep it raised over the heads of ordinary Internet users. The threat of expensive litigation can shut up many people’s mouths, discouraging them from criticising not only officials, but also well-known bloggers “with a blue tick”.
In fact, the establishment has just pointed out to ordinary people their place in a real “social network— – the estate kingdom, which is still the UK.
And the “cherry on the cake” – the “novels” of the Legal Commission concern only the blogosphere. The English media are not threatened with any accusations of deliberately false reports — they can still lie as they have been doing.
“The power of good”
But what do we care about British strictures? If the residents of the Foggy Albion vote for those who want to put them in jail for “emotional harm” on the Internet, then that’s what they need, isn’t it? Alas, it’s not true. Not only ordinary Britons can find themselves on the chopping block.
To begin with, the Internet is still cross-border and citizens of any state can participate in online discussions. Let’s imagine that several Russians participated in some “troll attack”, regarded by the English court as a criminal offence. What awaits them? Nothing good.
This is not a joke: in a few months, your criticism on the web, addressed to a subject of Her Majesty with a large purse or influence, can turn into criminal prosecution and extradition to Britain from some friendly country to London. After that, you will first have to spend many thousands of pounds on lawyers, and then spend the next couple of years behind bars.
But that’s half the trouble. The real problem is that the British government still seems to believe in its exclusive role as a global light, bringing the truth to unreasonable peoples. And expects that all other countries will join its “advanced” legislation in the field of data protection.
To make sure of this, it is enough to open the National Data Strategy, published a little less than a year ago, on the website of the same Department of Digital. It speaks quite definitely about the place of the United Kingdom in the modern world. The passage about the “power of good” alone is worth a lot:
“Having left the European Union, the UK now has a unique opportunity – as a world leader in digital and as a champion of free trade and the rules-based international system – to be a force for good in the world, shaping global thinking and promoting the benefits that data can deliver while managing malign influences.”
All of this is said about the digital world, that is, about the Internet, social networks, the blogosphere, etc. At the same time, the strategy postulates not just the promotion of British ideals on the planet, but their transformation into a global standard:
“We want to ensure that UK values of openness, transparency and innovation, as well as the protection of security and ethical values, are adopted and observed globally. <...> We must also work with like-minded states to ensure our values are considered and incorporated into the standards of new technologies which substantially impact data and their data trail.”
In fact, we have before us a sincere confession from officials in London: yes, it really wants to make its future bill on criminalising “emotional threats”, “deliberate lies” and “trolling on Twitter” spread to all of humanity. And all those who are against it will be declared “forces of evil”, whose place is either in an English prison or in an eternal network “bathhouse”. Are you ready to live in this version of digital fascism?