The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes report into free speech in universities, highlighting serious concerns over barriers to free speech. The Committee has also published its own guidance for
universities and students organising events to empower them to protect and promote this vital human right.
Factors limiting free speech in universities
The Committee say that there are a number of factors which actively limit free speech in universities, including:
Intolerant attitudes, often incorrectly using the banner of "no-platforming" and "safe-space" policies
Incidents of unacceptable intimidating behaviour by protestors intent on preventing free speech and debate
Student Unions being overly cautious for fear of breaking the rules
Unnecessary bureaucracy imposed on those organising events
Fear and confusion over what the Prevent Duty entails
Unduly complicated and cautious guidance from the Charity Commission.
However, as solutions to the above concerns, MPs and Peers are recommending to students, universities and the authorities:
That an independent review of the Prevent policy is necessary to assess what impact it is having on students and free speech, after evidence the Committee took demonstrated an adverse effect on events with student faith
That the Charity Commission, which regulates student unions as registered charities, review its approach and guidance, and that its actions are proportionate and are adequately explained to student unions and don't
unnecessarily limit free speech
That the Office for Students should ensure university policies proactively secure lawful free speech and are not overly burdensome
That student societies should not stop other student societies from holding their meetings. They have the right to protest but must not seek to stop events entirely
That while there must be opportunities for genuinely sensitive discussions, and that the whole of the university cannot be a "safe space." Universities must be places where open debate can take place so that
students can develop their own opinions on unpopular, controversial or provocative ideas
Groups or individuals holding unpopular opinions which are within the law should not be shut down nor be subject to undue additional scrutiny by student unions or universities.
Members of the Committee believe that codes of practice on freedom of speech should facilitate debate, not unduly restrict it.
Freedom of speech is vital in universities
Chair of the Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said:
Freedom of speech within the law should mean just that -- and it is vital in universities.
Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights showed that there is a problem of inhibition of free speech in universities.
While media reporting has focussed on students inhibiting free speech -- and in our report we urge universities to take action to prevent that -- free speech is also inhibited by university bureaucracy and restrictive
guidance from the Charity Commission.
We want students themselves to know their rights to free speech and that's why we've issued a guide for students today.
OverSimplified is an informative factual series of short history lessons is an animated and light tone. However the commentary is unbiased, observational and neutral.
No sane and rational human would consider these videos as tight wind propaganda or the like. Yet Google has banned them from UK eyes with the message 'This content is not available on this country domain'.
Google does not provide a reason fr the censorship but there are two likely candidates.
Maybe Google's unintelligent AI systems cannot detect the difference between a history lesson about Hitler from a video inciting support for Hitler's ideas/
Maybe someone flagged the video for unfair reasons and Google's commercial expediency means its cheaper and easier to uphold the ban rather than get a moderator to spend a few minutes watching it.
Either way the cost of the censorship is that it will achieve nothing towards the censors were seeking, but it will alienate those that believe in free speech and democracy.
Fans Against Criminalisation campaigner Paul Quigley is celebrating momentous victory for the group which has lobbied for the repeal of the disgraceful Offensive Behaviour at Football Act for the last seven years.
The act was a knee jerk reaction to Celtic vs Rangers game where Celtic manager Neil Lennon was attacked on field and letter bombs were later sent to Lennon, Paul McBride QC and Trish Godman MSP.
The resulting legislation was nominally about tackling sectarianism but in reality gave the police carte-blanche powers to arrest fans for whatever they wished under the catch-all guise of offensiveness.
Paul Quigley explained:
A decision was taken to form a campaign to fight this, partly due to a deeply held collective ideological belief in the right to freedom of expression and equality before law, and partly due to the simple notion of self defence.
Fans of all clubs would be welcome to join our organisation and that we would help and campaign for all football fans who we deemed to be the subject of unjust treatment.
Fans Against Criminalisation was able to count on the support of thousands of passionate supporters of the campaign, as was evidenced by a demonstration at George Square which drew thousands of people in late 2011. In spite of this, the
government seemed to assume that this would all die down in due course, and that the fan campaign would not have the capability or endurance required to give them real cause to reconsider their position.
The treatment that football fans have had to endure ever since has been appalling. The human cost of this legislation is often lost amid the political rabble rousing, among the doctored statistics and the nauseatingly disingenuous moral
grandstanding. The reality of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is this; it has ruined lives and caused serious damage in our communities.
In the face of all of this, football fans endured. In the years that followed, an incredible campaign challenged this treatment of supporters and lobbied for the repeal of this ill advised and illiberal piece of legislation. Today, the Scottish
Parliament finally voted on this very question.
The Repeal Bill has passed, and this is the first time in the history of devolution that the Scottish Parliament has repealed its own legislation. This victory is historic not just for football fans, but for the country.
As a follow up. James Dornan, the MSP for Glasgow Cathcart and a candidate for deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, has decided to quit Twitter. He describes it as a cesspit of hate and bile, saying he has received abuse from football
fans over his defence of the Offence Behaviour at Football Act (OBFA). His disgraceful 'defence' of the legislation was to try and suggest that the campaign was some sort Labour party political effort. The fans were not impressed and clearly gave
him the slagging off he deserved. See more on this in
article from spiked-online.com
Hooded thugs have stormed a free speech event King's College London, throwing smoke bombs and attacking security guards.
Believed to be part of the anti-facist movement, violent protesters forced their way into a lecture hall before setting off smoke bombs and smashing windows. Thugs grabbed the speaker's microphone, while several security guards were punched
during the melee.
A threatening note was also left for the compere.
Ten to 15 people dressed all in black, with black hoods and black face masks, leapt over the barriers and instantly engaged in a fight with two or three security guards, said witness Tristan Teller:
They tried to stop them but they just started punching them in the face. One guard, a grey-haired gentleman who looked to be in around 60, received several punches.
The event, which was organised by KCL Libertarian Society, saw YouTube personality Sargon of Akkad, real name Carl Benjamin, invited to speak alongside Ayn Rand Institute director Dr Yaron Brook.
The group were had dispersed by the time police arrived. There have been no reported injuries. No arrests. Enquiries continue.
Update: Antifa: the militant wing of authoritarianism
Social media giants have been ramping up internet censorship to prevent or take down terrorist posts. However the police are now complaining that the companies are not proactively reporting such posters to the police.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the outgoing chief of UK counter-terror policing, said they are threatening public safety to maximise profit and customer satisfaction. Speaking at a counter-terror conference in London, Mr
Rowley said social media firms should work with police in the same way banks had been made to co-operate on tracing dirty money. He said:
The online extremists seem able to act with impunity, occupying spaces owned and managed by legitimate and very wealthy corporations.
I am disappointed that in the UK as a police service we are yet to receive a direct referral from them when they have identified such behaviour.
They are effectively private tenants to their communication service provider landlords. In the real world if a landlord knew their property was being used to plan or inspire terrorist attacks you would expect them to show corporate
responsibility by informing the authorities and evicting them forthwith. We want to see those same standards applied in the virtual world.
A planned comedy gig about whether feminism was stifling free speech has been cancelled after criticsim from feminists.
Alfie Noakes, promoter of the We Are Funny Project, had invited comedians to play the gig after writing a provocative article for Chortle questioning if radical feminism had gone too far.
But after a flurry of furious messages were posted in response online, the planned venue, Farr's School of Dancing in East London, asked him to pull the gig. Noakes responded:
I'm very sorry to report that the posting, and dog-whistle call to attack all involved in the show, specifically the venue, was so concerning to our hosts that they asked me to pull the show.
He specifically blamed comedian Kate Smurthwaite for the decision, after she called on the venue to stop hosting this kind of bigotry He further called her a hypocrite as she has often spoken about free speech, and had first-hand experience of
censorship after being no-platformed for her own controversial views by Goldsmiths College in London.
Although Farrs has pulled the plug on the feminism show, it will continue to host We Are Funny comedy nights, including a forthcoming season of Edinburgh previews. Noakes is now looking for a new venue for his feminism show.
Max Mosley has launched a chilling new attack on Press freedom, with an extraordinary legal bid to scrub records of his notorious German-themed orgy from history.
The former Formula One boss also wants to restrict reporting on the £3.8million his family trust spends bankrolling the controversial Press regulator Impress.
He has taken legal action against a range of newspapers -- the Daily Mail, The Times, The Sun and at least one other national newspaper -- demanding they delete any references to his sadomasochistic sex party and never mention it again.
However, in a move that could have devastating consequences both for Press freedom and for historical records, Mr Mosley is now using data protection laws to try to force newspapers to erase any mention of it. He has also insisted that the
newspapers stop making references to the fact he bankrolls Impress -- the highly controversial, state-approved Press regulator.
Yesterday, MPs warned against data protection laws being used to trample Press freedoms. Conservative MP Bill Cash said:
The freedom of the Press is paramount and it would be perverse to allow historical records to be removed on the basis of data protection. If data protection can be used to wipe out historical records, then the consequences would be dramatic.
John Whittingdale, a Tory former Culture Secretary, said:
Data protection is an important principle for the protection of citizens. However, it must not be used to restrict the freedom of the Press.
In his action, the multimillionaire racing tycoon claimed that the Daily Mail's owner, Associated Newspapers, had breached data protection principles in 34 articles published since 2013 -- including many opinion pieces defending the freedom of
the Press. These principles are designed to stop companies from excessive processing of people's sensitive personal data or from holding on to people's details for longer than necessary, and come with exemptions for journalism that is in the
A former councillor who used social media to criticise local government spending was visited at home by police officers.
Tony Boxford was stunned to see uniformed officers outside his house and accused Suffolk Police of wasting valuable time and resources .
It's ridiculous, he said. They don't have the resources to deal with traffic issues or parking problems yet they have time to come and knock on people's doors on behalf of the council.
A second man received a similar visit from the police after making critical comments about the town council's clerk on social media and at a private Christmas party.
Boxford had made fairly benign remarks in a blog post questioning whether Hadleigh Town Council was acting in constituents' best interests and criticising the actions of its clerk. On Facebook, he had criticised the town's former mayor and
attacked the council for allegedly spending taxpayers' money on maintaining the guildhall rather than for the benefit of local people.
Boxford said police could not tell him specifically what he had said or written to warrant the visit.
A spokesman for Suffolk Police said:
Concerns were raised with police that some comments had been made regarding a member of the town council which they believed to be derogatory in nature - this included posts on social media.
Two individuals have subsequently been spoken to by officers and offered words of advice regarding these comments and in particular the appropriate use of social media.
The police said nothing about admonishing the complainant for wasting police time, nor about its own actions undermining respect for the law.
A stage drama about Tibet has been pulled by the Royal Court Theatre for fear offending China.
Abhishek Majumdar said his play Pah-la was shelved because of fears over an arts programme in Beijing. His play deals with life in contemporary Tibet and draws on personal stories of Tibetans he worked with in India,
The London theatre, once known for its groundbreaking international productions, is facing questions after Abhishek Majumdar revealed a copy of the poster for the play Pah-la , bearing the imprints of the Arts Council and the Royal Court along
with text suggesting that it was due to run for a month last autumn.
Majumdar claimed the play was withdrawn because of fears over the possible impact on an arts programme in Beijing, where Chinese writers are working with the publicly funded theatre and British Council.
The play was in development for three years and rehearsals had been fixed, according to Majumdar, who claimed that the British Council had pressurised the theatre to withdraw it because of sensitivities relating to the writing programme.
The Royal Court said it had had to postpone and then withdraw Pah-la for financial reasons last year, after it had been in development for three years, and that it was now committed to producing the play in spring 2019 in the light of recent
events. It added:
The Royal Court always seeks to protect and not to silence any voice. [...BUT...] In an international context, this can sometimes be more complex across communities. The Royal Court is committed to protecting free speech, sometimes
within difficult situations.
China has praised Theresa May for not mentioning Chinese human rights abuse during her three day visit.
The Global Times newspaper hailed her for avoiding rebuking the regime for its treatment of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and human rights record in China, and instead to confine herself to enthusiastic and positive remarks about
Downing Street insisted that the PM did raise the issues in her discussions with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
But May must have said something not quite right though as a BBC World News report on May's visit to the country was cut out midway through the broadcast in the country. China correspondent Stephen McDonnell tweeted a video of the incident
alongside the caption:
So I hope @BBCWorld viewers are enjoying their screens going to black in mainland #China today as the censors pull the feed with coverage of PM Theresa May @Number10gov + Pres Xi Jinping and human rights as well as #Xinjiang crack down.
Clive Stafford Smith, who founded human rights group Reprieve, tweeted:
What we all want in a principled leader! Theresa May commended by China for sidestepping human rights - so why not just abolish them, or abolish humans? Or maybe we could have @RealDonad_Trump for PM instead after he has been impeached?
Joshua North, who was prosecuted by Humberside police with the help of counter-terror experts, has been cleared by a jury over his satirical Facebook post where he called for national batter gypos day. A costs order in North's favour will be
North had responded on Facebook after national news reported that travellers had caused trouble in Cleethorpes. North said he made the statement to mock other people's 'hateful comments'.
North said the case had led to almost two years of hell for him and his family and noted that there was no investigation into my side of the story.
After he was cleared of inciting racial hatred Joshua North, from Cleethorpes, blasted the decision to prosecute him as political correctness gone mad. He said:
I told the police, if you check all my other Facebook posts, it indicates that I'm very friendly to immigrants, other races and religions.
The decision to prosecute was criticised by North's lawyer who said the case had been brought with 'the full force of the resources of the counter-terrorism unit'. He said:
I am disappointed that the prosecution, who had the full force of the resources of the counter-terrorism unit behind them, did not at any point consider what kind of a person Joshua actually is.
Had they spent any time thinking about him, looking at his other posts or even considering the possibility of another interpretation other than that they fixed upon, it would have occurred to them that Joshua is the last person to incite racial
Instead, they fixed on an interpretation and they refused to consider any other possibility even after he had advanced his position in interview.
What we have is a young, kind, decent, liberal, broad-minded man who works hard and who has been put through hell.
After the case concluded, Humberside Police defended its decision to charge North, stating it takes hate crime allegations seriously.
Robert Hannigan, a recent director of GCHQ has joined the clamour for internet censorship by US internet monopolies.
Hannigan accused the web giants of doing too little to remove terrorist and extremist content and he threatened that the companies have a year to reform themselves or face government legislation.
Hannigan suggested tech companies were becoming more powerful than governments, and had a tendency to consider themselves above democracy. But he said he believed their window to change themselves was closing and he feared most were missing the
boat. He predicted that if firms do not take credible action by the end of 2018, governments would start to intervene with legislation.
Google is set for its first appearance in a London court over the so-called right to be forgotten in two cases that will test the boundaries between personal privacy and public interest.
Two anonymous people, who describe themselves in court filings as businessmen, want the search engine to take down links to information about their old convictions.
One of the men had been found guilty of conspiracy to account falsely, and the other of conspiracy to intercept communications. Judge Matthew Nicklin said at a pre-trial hearing that hose convictions are old and are now covered by an English law
-- designed to rehabilitate offenders -- that says they can effectively be ignored. With a few exceptions, they don't have to be disclosed to potential employers.
A Google spokeswoman said:
We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are clearly in the public interest and will defend the public's right to access lawful information.
Virgin Trains has announced that it has stopped selling the Daily Mail newspaper on its West Coast trains.
Drew McMillan, head of colleague communication and engagement at Virgin, told staff in an internal memo:
Thousands of people choose to read the Daily Mail every day. But they will no longer be reading it courtesy of VT.
There's been considerable concern raised by colleagues about the Mail's editorial position on issues such as immigration, LGBT rights and unemployment.
We've decided that this paper is not compatible with the VT brand and our beliefs.
We will continue to offer The Times to customers, but we won't be stocking the Daily Mail for sale or as a giveaway.
This won't suit all of our customers or all of our people - it's certain to draw some criticism. But we've listened to many colleagues over the last few months, and we feel that this is the right move to take.
A Daily Mail spokesman called the decision disgraceful, saying that at a time when fares were rising, it was disgraceful that Virgin was announcing that for political reasons it is censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to passengers.
Perhaps anther unsaid reason for the ban is the Daily Mail's very critical reporting of 'rip-off' fares.
Virgin's decision to ban the Daily Mail on its trains is a PR disaster.
Virgin workers may not share the paper's stance on a range of causes, from the EU to immigration to LGBT rights to unemployment, but to ban the sale of the paper? What are they thinking? More to the point, what is Sir Richard Branson , the
firm's boss, thinking?
No one is more PR-savvy than Branson, nobody in the past has exhibited a surer touch when it comes to promoting themselves or their brand.
Branson has been telling us for years that he is Virgin, that the company and founder are inseparable, their values identical. He promotes himself to promote Virgin. Now we know that those standards he so aspires to include restricting choice
and controlling freedom of expression.
Virgin Trains is to reverse its decision to stop selling the Daily Mail on its West Coast services.
Virgin Group boss Richard Branson said he instructed the firm to restock the paper while a review takes place.
Branson said he was unaware of the move and the operator must never be seen to be censoring customers. In a statement he said the chairman of Stagecoach, Brian Souter, was also not aware of the decision:
Brian and I agree that we must not ever be seen to be censoring what our customers read and influencing their freedom of choice.
Nor must we be seen to be moralising on behalf of others. Instead we should stand up for the values we hold dear and defend them publicly, as I have done with the Mail on many issues over the years.
Iran's embassy in London has written an official letter to the UK TV censor Ofcom claiming of bias in Britain's media coverage of the ongoing anti-government protests in Iran.
Ofcom said on Friday that the letter is being carefully evaluated.
Iranian state media says its government is complaining about what it calls a propaganda campaign orchestrated by UK-based Persian-language broadcasters.
The letter claims that the media outlets violated UK and international media regulations and tried to incite protesters into using violent tactics.
In an attempt to shut down protests and manage the unrest, Iran's government blocked access to the encrypted Telegram messaging app and the photo-sharing app Instagram, which now join Facebook and Twitter in being banned.
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has warned Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to tighten up their age controls and kick off underage users.
The ICO stepped in after it became aware that millions of British children join the platform before they were 13. New ICO guidelines state that social media giants must examine whether they put children at risk -- by showing minors adverts for
alcohol or gambling, for example.
The guidance, which is under consultation, also calls on the firms to do a better job of kicking underage users off their platforms, and to stop or deter children from sharing their information online.
Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, threatened:
Whether designing services to provide protection for children or having a system to verify age, organisations, including social media companies, need to change the way they offer services to children.
It's also vital that we ensure children's interests and rights are protected online in the same way they are in all other aspects of life.
In November, an Ofcom report revealed that half of British 12-year-olds and more than a quarter of ten-year-olds have their own social media profiles. At the moment, all the major web giants demand that users are over 13 before they get an
account -- but they do next to nothing to enforce that rule.
Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat insist it is unrealistic to have to verify the age of users under the age of 18.
The ICO does not seem to have addressed the enormity of their demand. Facebook and social networks are the very essence of smart phones. If children aren't allowed to share things, how does any website or app feed up news and articles to anyone
if it does now what the reader likes nor who is linked to that person. Typing in what you want to see is no longer practical or desirable, so the basic idea of sending people more of what they have already shown they liked is the only game in
town. Of course the kids could play games all day instead, but maybe that has a downside too.