Reporters Without Borders is deeply concerned by UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s announcement on 2 October 2017 of plans to criminalise the viewing of extremist content. The new laws would reportedly see anyone “repeatedly” viewing extremist content online jailed for up to 15 years.
Rudd’s announcement was delivered during her keynote speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester. “This will close an important gap in legislation”, she stated. In responding to a question from a member of the audience, she said “I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how it’s helping the criminals”.
RSF has previously criticised Rudd’s calls – echoed by Prime Minister Theresa May – for restrictions on the use of tools that use end-to-end encryption, such as WhatsApp. In July, Rudd drew a heated reaction for claiming in a column for The Telegraph that “real people” do not care about security in their online communications.
“This latest announcement is cause for serious concern for journalists, human rights campaigners, and others with a legitimate need to view extremist content. These plans are downright dangerous when viewed in the context of other recent worrying moves to restrict press freedom in the UK, such as the adoption of the menacing Investigatory Powers Act, the proposal for an alarming new Espionage Act, and Rudd’s previous calls to restrict encryption tools. It is becoming increasingly difficult and risky for journalists to do their jobs in the UK,” said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.
The UK is currently ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.