Free Speech Act Proposed in Wake of Woke Clampdown

A Free Speech Act for the United Kingdom is among a new raft of proposals in a new paper by the Adam Smith Institute, modelled on the spirit of the United States’ First Amendment, to put the Tories’ 80-seat majority to good use and remove references to “insulting” speech from current legislation, limiting the scope of speech offences to “threatening” only. As raised repeatedly by Guido – along with the Free Speech Union – the UK is experiencing a ramping up of free speech clampdowns in recent months. Readers will remember the case of Darren Grimes being threatened with an interview under caution by the Met for publishing an interview containing racist comments made by David Starkey…

Legislation that criminalises speech has begun to be more harshly applied, from the Public Order Act 1986, Communications Act 2003, Terrorism Act 2000 and 2006, the Malicious Communications Act 1988. These laws, as applied, have created categories of “speech crimes” for ‘offensive’, though benign, political speech.

The ASI’s paper calls on parliament to immediately:

  • Remove all references to “abusive” or “insulting” words and behaviour from Parts I and III of the Public Order Act 1986;
  • Replace Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 with
    • (a) a provision that limits the scope of the existing rule to “threatening” only and
    • (b) a new rule that addresses meaningful stalking and cyberstalking threats 2 which cause or intend to cause substantial emotional distress, modelled after 18 U.S. Code § 2261A;
  • Repeal the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and replace it with the aforementioned stalking statute;
  • Introduce a United Kingdom Free Speech Act.

This proposal comes in the chilling context of new anti-speech UK ‘Online Harms‘ proposals, the Hate Crime (Public Order) (Scotland) Bill, and the Law Commission proposing blasphemy laws. Guido imagines more than a few Tory MPs will be receptive to the proposals…

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