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Internet Police: London Signs Warn Against Accessing “Extremist” Material

Threat of criminal charges for viewing “inappropriate” material

Steve Watson
Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Police signs have begun springing up in internet cafes in London warning users that they could be reported to the police and face criminal charges if they access “extremist”, “offensive” or “inappropriate” material.

The signs, which state that the owners of the premises are actively working with the Metropolitan police, have drawn criticism due to their vagueness and questionable legality.

“Downloading or accessing certain material could constitute a criminal offence” states the bright pink sign (pictured below).

Internet Police: London Signs Warn Against Accessing Extremist Material 050510internetpolice

Comments concerning the signs on both flickr and popular blog site Boing Boing encapsulate the threat such policies pose:

  • ‘Offensive’ according to what criteria? Could that include political satire or making fun of religions? Also, if it also lists ‘pornographic’, what is meant by ‘inappropriate’? Another term so widely interpretable that it’s effectively meaningless.
  • Not just illegal, please note, but “offensive or inappropriate”. Offensive to whom? Inappropriate to what? These are the sort of catch-all weasel-words you might expect in China.
  • You might as well just have a notice that says: “We reserve the right to terminate your connection and report you to the police whenever we feel like it”.
  • Who’s monitoring personal emails for “inappropriate” material? Is the monitoring covered by RIPA? What’s the legal basis or indeed definition of “inappropriate”? Saddened and shocked on a weekly basis as we slip/get boiled into a police state.
  • There is an interesting legal angle here: since when, and on what authority, have the police been given the power to prevent the accessing of violent or pornographic images other than occasions where these are criminal – which they often aren’t.

    Equally, by what authority do they co-opt, whether by persuasion, bullying (“You aren’t refusing to cooperate with the police are you Mr Internet Cafe Owner, are you?”) Internet cafes into joining such a self defined and vague scheme?

    I think the Internet cafe should be asked by its users for Data Subject Access records, just to be sure.

  • I(don’t) like the extreme vagueness of the last sentence: downloading certain materials could possibly be illegal… but we’re not telling you what certain materials. Breaking some laws could be against the law! It’s possible! Be warned!
  • “Extremist” Sounds like your Magna Carta to me. Or our Bill Of Rights. Good luck living under the (jack)boots.
  • gosh – i hope there’s a bobby looking over my shoulder at all times to make sure i don’t download anything inappropriate or offensive. there’s a list of that sort of thing isn’t there? because if they stop me before i read anything bad, then i won’t be a criminal will i? i want to be certain.
  • or upload, access, transmit or store…. btw, would it be okay if i brought my own computer in to look at bad stuff? then it wouldn’t be on your system right? then i’d be safe, wouldn’t i?
  • I’m glad that Londoners are still free to think what they want them to think.

We have previously reported on filtering and blocking of all kinds of political websites including in public domains in both the UK and the US. This type of catch all censorship creep is part of an ongoing agenda to use legitimate concerns such child pornography to regulate and control the internet as a whole.

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