Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Independent today reports that former PM Tony Blair could be called to testify in the cases brought by Abdel Hakim Belhadj and Sami al-Saadi against Jack Straw and Sir Mark Allen, on charges of complicity in their torture and rendition to Libya.

From The Independent: “Tony Blair could be cross-examined in court over allegations the UK assisted in illegal renditions, it was claimed yesterday as lawyers for two Libyans began legal proceedings against Jack Straw and a former MI6 director.

“Lawyers for Abdel Hakim Belhadj, 45, and Sami Al Saadi issued formal proceedings at the High Court yesterday against the former Foreign Secretary as well as MI6’s ex-director of counter-terrorism, Sir Mark Allen.

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BBC News and the Guardian have covered a report published by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC on ‘The Terrorism Acts 2011’. His report looks at the operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006 in 2011. In his report, he criticises terrorism legislation as ‘untidy’ and states that at times excessive weight is given to the idea that “terrorism is different, losing sight of the principle that terrorism is above all crime” and that some aspects of counter-terrorism legislation have been applied with “excessive enthusiasm”. He argues that some aspects of legislation could be “rebalanced in favour of liberty” without harming Britain’s security needs.

Some of the key points made in the report are summarised below:

The risk posed by Al-Qaida related terrorism in the United Kingdom remains real, but should not be overstated.

While some plots were detected in 2011, arrests, charges and convictions for terrorist offences in Great Britain have all declined markedly since the middle of the last decade.

The victims of the 2005 London bombings remain the only people ever to have been killed by al-Qaida related terrorism in the UK.

According to Europol, no al-Qaida affiliated or inspired attacks were carried out in EU Member States during 2011 – though the UK was said to remain a constant target.

• Counter terrorism powers are “extreme measures which are therefore deserving of searching inquiry and review”.

Counter-terrorism law in the UK is bitty, messy and hard for even its practitioners to comprehend as a whole.

• UK counter-terrorism legislation “at times gives excessive weight to the idea that ―terrorism is different, losing sight of the principle that terrorism is above all crime, and that special laws to deal with it need to be justified by the peculiar nature of the crime. Elements of it have been conceived and applied with excessive enthusiasm.

• Parliament has been an effective check on the government and the executive “has shown more restraint than many people anticipated.” Anderson also notes the “crucial interventions” of the courts in London and Strasbourg for example in ending the old system of detention without trial; s. 44 concerning stop and search under the Terrorism Act 2000, and the operation of closed material procedures used in control order cases. He argues that “These judgments have in a number of respects affirmed the importance of liberty and due process, without, so far as I can judge, causing an unacceptable increase in risk.”

Anderson makes a number of recommendations on specific aspects of the terrorism acts, whereby he believes that “a cautious rebalancing could be achieved without materially increasing the risk from terrorism”. They include the following:

Proscribed organisations
• Anderson argues that where far-right terrorist organisations meet requirements for proscription, proscription “should be considered according to the same discretionary criteria as have been applied to UK organisations concerned in al-Qaida related terrorism.”
• Any organisation that is not “concerned in terrorism…fails the statutory test for proscription as interpreted by the PMOI (People’s Mujahedeen of Iran) case”. Any proscribed organisations which fail this test should be deproscribed, and proscriptions should only be applied when of real utility in protecting the public.
• Proscriptions should expire after two years with the opportunity for the Secretary of State to go through a due process of scrutiny to have an organisation reproscribed.

Arrest and detention of terrorist suspects
• Police should avoid arresting and detaining under s.41 “when the suspect is always likely to be charged, if at all, under laws other than the Terrorist Acts.”
• The TA 2000 should be amended so that extended detention periods are only issued when satisfying statutory requirements.
• Persons arrested under the TA 2000 s.41 should be allowed to apply for court bail.

Port and border controls
• People subjected to Schedule 7 stop and search powers should be made aware of a complaints mechanism, and should be encouraged to lodge a complaint when the power is misused.
• Those entrusted with Schedule 7 stop and search powers should be constrained from carrying stop and search when unnecessary, in an arbitrary manner and when no specific intelligence is available indicating involvement in terrorist activities.

Anderson’s suggestions point to the need for a cautious balance between security and liberty in challenging terrorism in the UK. His recommendations in particular point to the way in which terrorism legislation has been drafted and applied often in a manner of haste, and in a way that unnecessarily infringes on people’s personal liberty. The proscription for example of the extreme group Muslims Against Crusades in November last year is an example where a group was proscribed for expressing unpalatable views, rather than any known terrorist activity. No such similar action, however, has been taken against a number of far-right organisations, notably the English Defence League and affiliated off-shoot organisations such as the ‘North West Infidels’, who similarly express extreme opinions.

On the issue of Schedule 7 stop and search powers, there has been consistent protest from civil liberties groups and from Muslim communities due to the abuse of power and the harassment that some people have been subjected to at airports, increasing the perception that Muslims are a ‘suspect community’.

Interestingly, Anderson’s opinions and suggestions contrast starkly with comments made earlier this week by the Director General of MI5, Jonathan Evans on the terrorist threat faced by the UK. Evans emphasised the continuing threat from ‘Al Qaeda’ inspired terrorism and the ‘permissive environment’ which instability in the Middle East offered for opportunist terrorists. However, Evans only briefly mentioned the issue of extreme right wing and left wing extremism despite the growing body of evidence of the increasing threat this poses in comparison with Al Qaeda inspired terro
rism. The stark difference in attitudes expressed by Anderson and Evans perhaps point to gulf between public experiences and attitudes relating to terrorism, and government policy which has reacted to extreme and exceptional events, but that has lacked the necessary independent and measured oversight to bring in a balance between the needs of security and liberty. Alarmist reporting such as this recent report by the BBC on the threat posed by ‘British Muslim extremists’ to the Olympic games in London are an example of the kind of biased discourses which can develop and become naturalised when a measured approach to terrorism, which as Anderson puts is ultimately a crime, is not taken.

The full report by David Anderson QC is available to download here.

The Bolton News, the Lancashire Evening Post and the Daily Mail have all reported on the sentencing of a group of English Defence League supporters charged with racially aggravated public disorder offences. The offences were carried out at a string of anti-Islam ‘flash demonstrations’ last July, during which they gathered outside a Muslim MEP’s home, acting in an anti-social manner. The protests culminated in an attack on an Asian teenager and the running over of another teenager.

From The Bolton News:

“An English Defence League mob which descended on an East Lancashire town for a flash mob protest have been branded ‘a pack of wild animals’.

“Five of the gang have today been jailed for their parts in the brawl.

“One Asian teenager was punched and kicked during the disturbance last July and another Asian man was run over as around 25 EDL supporters rolled into Brierfield last July.

“Ringleader Bernard Holmes has been jailed for 18 months for his role in co-ordinating the protest, which ended when a rival gang of Asian youths confronted the mob in the Castle Street area of the town.”

Holmes, who admitted a racially aggravated public disorder charge has been given a five-year anti-social behaviour order. Three of his ‘lieutenants’ who admitted the same offence were each given 37-week jail sentences. One other man, who confessed to possession of an offensive weapon, was given a 47 week jail term and six others who admitted using threatening behaviour in the same incident were given suspended prison sentences.

The article continues, “the judge, sitting at Preston Crown Court, said the events of that day saw ‘middle-aged men running around like a pack of animals’.

“Earlier that day protests had taken place in Accrington and Clitheroe, and outside the home of MEP Sajjad Karim at Simonstone, who said his wife and daughter were left ‘terrified’ by the ordeal.”

The Daily Mail adds that “This is not the first time Mr Karim has experienced harassment from far-right groups like the EDL: In 2010, Mr Karim said he was forced to hire a private security firm for round the clock protection due to threats”, and that “he believed he was targeted for religious reasons because the EDL have an ‘anti-Islamic agenda’.”

The BBC Trust has published a report on ‘the impartiality and accuracy’ of the BBC’s coverage of the Arab Spring. The report states that the Trust chose to look at this particular topic “because of its importance and because the complexity of deciding how to organise impartial coverage in a fast-moving story across a range of conflicting voices eager to command world attention.” The review examined coverage on “BBC national TV and radio, online content and the BBC World News…beginning with events in Tunisia in December 2010 and, following on from that, most notably in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen”.

The report includes an independent assessment by Edward Mortimer, a former UN Director of Communications; content analysis carried out by Loughborough University, covering 44 days of output between December 2010-January 2012, as well as qualitative audience research, incorporating ten focus groups.

Some of the key findings of the report include the following:

The BBC’s coverage of the Arab Spring was remarkable given the challenges involved and was generally impartial.

The Trust recognises the considerable courage of the journalists and technicians on the ground who reported on these events, some of whom risked their lives to bring stories to the air.

• The qualitative audience research “revealed that accuracy and impartiality are amongst respondents’ top priorities”. Respondents perceive this as a balance of perspectives as well as neutral tone and language.

Mortimer’s independent assessment, notes the following:

• There were points “where coverage could have been fuller in various geographical areas at different times. Some countries had little coverage, others could have been followed up more fully and there could have been fuller examination of the different voices which made up the opposition to various incumbent governments.” Mortimer’s report raises concern over the drop in coverage after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt; the delay in covering human rights abuses by rebel forces in Libya; the lack of context in early coverage of Bahrain and the “later sporadic coverage of the country”; the lack of context in coverage of Syria; the fall in coverage of Yemen, Algeria, Morocco and Jordan, and the lack of coverage of Saudi Arabia.

• There was a lack of coverage of reactions to the Arab Spring outside of the MENA region apart from Britain, the US and France. Mortimer mentions that “the attitudes of “emerging” powers such as Brazil, India, South Africa or Indonesia were hardly covered at all.”

• On context and background, he states that “the BBC’s domestic output, like most other UK and international media, paid too little attention to the internal affairs of Arab countries, and the detail of their governments’ relations with the West, in the years before 2011”, however that once the uprisings began, “considerable effort was made to explore their causes and origins, particularly on the BBC website.” He notes that presenters are now doing more to draw attention to such information, but that there is further scope to explore “the potential of these links”.

• Mortimer writes that the use of User Generated Content (UGC), as often the only first hand source, and the extent to which it was used, “is what the Arab Spring will be remembered for in media history”. He adds that the BBC coped well with the challenges of UGC, but that in future, the BBC needs even more systematically and rigorously to “warn the public of the unverifiable nature of much of this material”.

• On the issue of diversity of output, Mortimer notes that the BBC has a “wide range of outlets” to “supplement the brief accounts of the day’s events given on the main televised news bulletins”, however that “those responsible for TV news bulletins fully accept that the existence of these other outlets does not absolve them from their duty of impartiality”.

• Commenting on strategic direction, Mortimer states that “since there seems at least to be a widespread feeling, if not agreement, (a) that there should have been more intensive coverage of Arab countries before the Arab Spring, and (b) that Saudi Arabia, in particular, is still not getting the level of attention that its enormous importance demands, I was led to ask whether these omissions were the result of strategic decisions, and if so, at what level such decisions were taken. I conclude by asking whether the structure and agenda of News Board meetings, and the inputs to them, might need modifying in any way- a matter for the BBC to consider.”

Responding to Mortimer’s findings and the other research findings, the Trust concludes the following:

The Trust expects that the well evidenced points made by Edward Mortimer on the coverage of individual countries and areas will be considered by the News Division and will shape future coverage in this and other parts of the world.

In order to safeguard audiences’ trust, the BBC should consider how it might better share more effectively with the audiences the rigorous vetting process to which all the User Generated Content (UGC) is subjected.

The Trust welcomes the Executive’s proposal to include a stand back item at the News Editorial Board and the intention to look at the strategic guidance the Middle East Editor can offer. The question as to how much coverage BBC One bulletins (with their unique audience reach) should provide to give context and cover stories which are not necessarily high profile is one which the News Editorial Board will wish to explore.

The Trust welcomes the Executive’s recognition that the BBC could have made better use of references to the website within broadcast items for those interested in more information or background, and encourages its use in particular on those outlets which attract younger audiences.

In the wider context of this report, it is important to note that although the BBC is regulated by Ofcom, it self- regulates in the areas of accuracy and impartiality. A report published by the Lord Select Committee on Communications last year recommended that “The BBC Trust and Ofcom working together to resolve issues of impartiality and accuracy so that the BBC is no longer its own judge and jury.”

The full BBC report is available to download here.

The Guardian yesterday featured an article by its editor, Alan Rusbridger, on what he argues is an ‘overwhelming case for plurality’ in the media. Rusbridger reflects on the degree of power enjoyed by Murdoch over the UK’s media before the phone-hacking revelations and ensuing outcry brought the NewsCorp/BSkyB deal to its knees, and the opportunity presented by the Leveson Inquiry to shape the future of the UK’s media landscape.

From the Guardian:

“Less than a year ago, the country came within days, possibly hours, of allowing the largest and most dominant news company the UK has ever seen to in effect double in size. There was apparently nothing in law that enabled anyone to stop the News Corporation bid for the full ownership of BSkyB on grounds of plurality.

“At the eleventh hour, parliament, stirred by revulsion about the News of the World hacking the phones of a dead teenager, 7/7 victims, and the relatives of murdered children, eventually decided unanimously to call on News Corp to abandon the bid. The company did so.

“But the legal position remains the same today. In theory, there would be nothing to prevent Rupert Murdoch from launching a future bid for BSkyB once the furore over phone-hacking has died down.

“The Leveson inquiry has, understandably, focused on how to regulate press content, complaints and standards. All important stuff. But part of Lord Justice Leveson’s brief is also to think about plurality – how you stop media power being concentrated in a few hands. It’s a complex subject, as Ofcom’s latest review makes plain. But it is every bit as important as the remodelling of self-regulation, if not more so, and now the judge has barely six weeks left in which to consider the issue.

“In the UK, there is currently more choice, but the economics of news are undergoing a fundamental revolution, so nothing should be taken for granted. There are other powerful media organisations in the UK, including the BBC.

“It is understandable that the Leveson inquiry – which must cover an enormous amount of territory – should not feel able to do a root and branch review of the complex areas of competition and plurality jurisprudence.

“It is dangerous in any sector to allow a single player to become dominant. It is doubly dangerous with the media sector because of the combination of factors described above. The press, rightly, argues that it exists to be a check on power. But when society’s watchdog shies away from holding itself to account it thereby creates a very potent form of unaccountable power.”

Emphasising the danger of a reduction in the plurality of the media, Rusbridger writes, “Anything that concentrates power in the hands of fewer and fewer multibillionaire proprietors – whether corporations or individuals – will impoverish our society. That much has always been understood by anyone who has ever looked at the behaviour, standards, control and ethics of the press and it’s why Leveson must say something strong on the issue, even if he cannot get into the detail.”

Rusbridger concludes that “The current plurality framework – which apparently granted no one the power to intervene over the BSkyB deal – is plainly insufficient to ensure the kind of plurality that is necessary for a healthy democracy.”

OFCOM’s recent report on Measuring Media Plurality states that “Plurality matters because it makes an important contribution to a well-functioning democratic society through informed citizens and preventing too much influence over the political process.” It also describes media plurality not as “a goal in itself but a means to an end.”

The report defines plurality as “a) ensuring there is a diversity of viewpoints available and consumed across and within media enterprises and b) preventing any one media owner or voice having too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda.”

The report adds that “Currently, certain mergers may be subject to intervention on media public interest grounds. There are threshold tests based on turnover and share of supply or demand, but there is no requirement that turnover be generated from the “public interest” activity; nor that the supply of goods or services which triggers jurisdiction be the supply of goods or services which raises the public interest concern.

“Since the current framework was established, there have been media public interest interventions in only two cases: Sky/ITV and News Corporation/Sky. In both cases, the public interest consideration concerned was “the need, in relation to every different audience in the United Kingdom or in a particular area or locality of the United Kingdom, for there to be a sufficient plurality of persons with control of the media enterprises serving that audience”.

“On its face, this appears to be only about the number of persons having control, and the argument was put to the Court of Appeal in litigation following the decision in the Sky/ITV merger that number was all it means. However, the Court of Appeal agreed with the Competition Commission that “plurality” in this context carries an implication of range and variety as well. We think it right for this broader idea of “plurality” to be retained in any future framework.”

The Leveson Inquiry provides an unprecedented opportunity to challenge the status-quo on media plurality and media regulation to allow the press to enjoy the power of acting as the fourth estate while enforcing, as is the norm with the other estates (executive, legislature and judiciary), accountability and the rule of law.

The Daily Mail reports that the online book-seller, Amazon, has allowed the sale of offensive, racist and ‘potentially dangerous’ literature through its ebooks platform, which allows any self-publishing author to upload ebooks for sale without content passing through the normal screening channels of traditional publishing.

From the Daily Mail:

“Amazon has been accused of making money selling offensive, racist and potentially dangerous ebooks on subjects ranging from bomb-making to drug growing.

“The internet giant sells a vast number of ebooks, downloaded by readers from its website, some for as little as £1.

“It allows anyone to upload an ebook for sale, without safeguards against content that would be refused by traditional publishers.

“Examples include anti-Semitic prose, instructions on growing marijuana, and novels which apparently glorify dog fighting.

“One ebook, Prophet Muhammad: Monster of History, includes images of a Koran being burned and a woman being hanged.

“The author, Jake Neuman, says of its content on his own website: ‘The writings contained in this book are now illegal in most Western countries.’

“But users of can access his work at the click of a mouse.

The article continues, “Amazon instructs self-publishers to adhere to ‘content guidelines’, stating, for example, that ‘we don’t accept pornography’.

“But critics say the company does not go far enough.

“Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, told the Sunday Times: ‘We see the same attitude from search engines – don’t blame us; we’re just putting it out there.’

“He added ‘It’s time internet companies did start to take a better look at their practices and behaved more responsibly.’

“Labour MP Paul Flynn said: ‘If Amazon is providing the platform for books that wouldn’t be published otherwise, it is responsible.”

The revelations raise interesting questions in light of the report published by the Home Affairs Select Committee in February on the ‘Roots of Violent Radicalisation,’ which found the internet to be an increasing area of concern and focus on challenging radicalisation, political violence and terrorism. The availability of hate literature on as significant an online book seller as Amazon is worrisome indeed. One wonders what compliance mechanisms Amazon have in place if content guidelines stop short of prohibiting distribution of literature that is deemed ‘offensive, racist and potentially dangerous’. However, if Amazon denies a responsibility to screen the content of its ebooks, leaving the responsibility to consumers to flag inappropriate content, the issue remains that religious groups receive weaker protection under incitement legislation than racial groups such as Jews and Sikhs to whom greater protection is afforded under racial hatred laws, thus making it less likely that possibly offensive and illegal literature would be prohibited.

The Daily Mail today reports that a veiled Muslim woman from Manchester was turned away from attending parents evening at her son’s school because the school’s security policy requires all faces to be visible, for identification purposes, whilst indoors. Maroon Rafique, who wears the niqab, was told that she had to remove it for security reasons, even though she had attended the school wearing the niqab on previous occasions without encountering any problems.

From the Daily Mail:

“A mother was turned away from a parents’ evening because she was wearing a full-face veil.

“Maroon Rafique, 40, was told that for the security and safety of children and teachers at the college there was a ban on any type of face coverings.

“She was warned that unless she removed her full-face covering, known as the niqab, she would not be allowed into the college to attend.

“In the end, a stunned Mrs Rafique was forced to call her husband, who took her place and went with their son Awais, 18.

“Mrs Rafique, who has worn the niqab for seven years, said: ‘I’m born in this country and British. Why should what I wear offend anyone? I didn’t want to make any fuss. All I wanted was to find out the information to help my son go to university.

“‘I offered to sit at the back or  at the front, anywhere where I wouldn’t be seen, if they thought I was going to offend anyone.

“‘I was really upset because whenever I’ve visited the college before there’s never been a problem, in fact the tutors have been welcoming and friendly.’

“Mrs Rafique, of Whalley Range, Manchester, had been invited to attend the parents’ evening and talk about her son’s education at The Manchester College.

“But when the mother of two arrived she was apprehended by security staff in the lobby of the college’s Northenden campus.

Rafique told the Daily Mail that, “I do get abuse every now and again in the street, which I just have to deal with. However, I was very surprised when I was treated this way by the college.”

Her son, Awais said that “We’ve never, ever been told about any rule about what parents can wear.”

A spokesperson for the college stated that Rafique’s concerns were being taken ‘very seriously’, and that, “The Manchester College provides a safe and inclusive environment that fosters development and achievement.  We apply a single dress code to all college users, including learners and visitors.

She added that, “At all times we need to be able to identify all individuals easily in order to maintain safety and security, and therefore we ask that faces are clearly visible while indoors. Our dress code is reviewed through our quality improvement group and we will take this situation into account at the next review.”
Perhaps most disturbing in the article published in the Daily Mail is Rafique’s admission that she gets “abuse every now and again in the street, which I just have to deal with.”

Verbal abuse is something no individual should have to tolerate, no matter what their choice of dress. And it is indicative of the changed environment in which veiled Muslim women now find themselves, thanks in no small part to the hysteria that surrounds any reasoned debate on headscarves and face veils, that abuse is far more commonplace.

An investigation by BBC Asian network in August 2009 found that only one in four Muslims who were victims of anti-Muslim hate crime, whether verbal or physical assault, would bother to report the incident.

A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Leicester found that there has been an increase in levels of hostility towards veiled Muslim women in the UK. Irene Zempi who carried out the research, has described the veil-ban in France as a ‘trigger event’ for such hostility, arguing that the ban stigmatises veiled Muslim women as ‘criminals’ and fosters a feeling of ‘otherness’ around the Muslim community. Earlier this month, a man from Birmingham admitted to charges of racially aggravated assault after he pulled a niqab from a woman’s face. A similar attack took place in Glenrothes, Scotland last year.

The Waltham Forest Guardian reports that local campaign group, We Are Waltham Forest, have vowed to make the London borough a ‘no-go area’ for the English Defence League after the EDL announced plans to demonstrate in Walthamstow in August.

From the local paper:

“Campaigners opposed to a proposed march by the far-right English Defence League (EDL) have vowed to make the borough a no-go area for the group.

“The EDL announced online earlier this year that members intend to hold a demonstration in Walthamstow on Saturday August 18.

“The We Are Waltham Forest campaign, set up in response to the proposed march, has now said its members will try and stop the event from going ahead with a counter-demonstration the same day.

“The comments come after the group’s first meeting, which it said was a big success attended by more than 100 residents.

“The campaign is also planning a fundraising music concert on Friday June 29 at the Orford House Social Club in Walthamstow.

“An EDL statement said: “Further details (of the march) will be given nearer the time.

“We are currently working together with the Met Police liaison team.”

Previous EDL demonstrations in London have drawn significant counter protests and often arrests. Residents, councillors and MPs in Tower Hamlets successfully petitioned the Home Secretary to ban an EDL demo last August amid fears their presence could spark further unrest and violence in the capital.

Islamophobia Watch alerts us to a local report on the suspended sentences handed down to two men from Wales for racist and Islamophobic comments posted on Facebook.

From the South Wales Argus:

“Two Gwent men escaped a jail sentence yesterday after they admitted writing offensive comments on Facebook.

“Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard labourer James Rogers, of Deepweir, Caldicot, wrote on his Facebook account on March 25: “What the ****? Just at Magor Services and there was a Muslim rag head praying on a mat. Makes me sick.”

“His friend Richard Orzel… replied to the post writing: “Spit on the ****” to which Rogers replied saying he would have “kicked the **** out of him” if there hadn’t been any CCTV around.

“The men yesterday pleaded guilty to making offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing comments on a public electronic communications network on March 25.”

“District Judge Richard Williams said the problem with these kinds of messages was that they had a degree of permanence and were capable of being seen by a number of people.

“He said while the man to whom the comments referred to was probably unaware of them, Rogers and Orzel had still put “corrosive and offensive” words into the public domain which he said caused damage to the wider society.

“Rogers, 21, and Orzel, 29, were spared jail and were instead handed 28 days’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

“They were each also ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work and must pay £85 court costs.”

An editorial in the local paper observes the increase in the number of prosecution cases brought for hate speech posted online:

“People post messages believing they are only being seen by themselves and their friends. In most cases, the reality is they are publishing their thoughts to the world.

“Publishing brings with it a whole host of legal issues. Editors of newspapers or magazines or websites have to stop and think twice about what they publish. So should anyone using social media.

“Those who bleat about freedom of speech in these instances are utterly incorrect.

“Freedom brings with it responsibility. And giving voice to your thoughts – whether that is by posting of Facebook or shouting in the street – means the laws of the land are applicable to you.

“Rogers and Orzel certainly deserved to be brought before the courts for their online rantings.

“Sadly they will not be the last to learn such a lesson. “

Only yesterday, a man from Southampton was handed a three-year prison sentence for inciting riot, disorder, and attacks on Muslims during the riots in the UK last summer. The judge sentencing the man described it as a “deterrent sentence”. There have also other arrests for similar offences including the arrest in April of five suspected EDL supporters on suspicion of making racist comments on social networking sites, and a further arrest of a man also with alleged EDL links, in connection with threats made on Facebook to carry out an ‘Oslo-style’ attack against Asian restaurants in Tyneside.

The Guardian yesterday reported that Neo-Nazi groups are making money from YouTube’s advertising revenue-sharing system when posting videos online. Google’s AdSense programme means that users who upload non-copyrighted videos which are popular are invited to join Google’s partner programme with revenue accruing to neo-Nazi groups, including payments from major communications companies such as BT, O2 and Virgin Media, without their consent.

From the Guardian:

“Neo-Nazis are using YouTube’s revenue-sharing system on adverts to obtain payments from companies such as Virgin Media, BT and O2 without their knowledge or consent.

“By putting videos on YouTube, extremist groups including Blood & Honour and Combat 18 have been benefiting from the automatic addition of ads to their videos. Revenue-sharing agreements under Google’s Adsense programme allow YouTube members posting non-copyrighted videos to benefit from ads that appearin a panel to the right of the videos.

“Some of the ad revenue is paid to the video owner and extremist groups have used this aspect of Google’s business model to generate funding. When it was alerted to this, Google deleted the videos – but there is no indication it has put in place any protections to prevent a repetition.

“Videos uploaded to neo-Nazi channels often appear to have the intention of rallying support by inciting hatred against minority and ethnic groups, despite YouTube’s rules stating: “We do not permit hate speech (speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, gender, age, veteran status, and sexual orientation/gender identity).”

The article notes that “David Copeland, the London nail bomber, and Anders Breivik, who carried out the 2011 Norway attacks, are known to have sourced ideas and suspected to have received support from online communities.”

Due to the sheer volume of content uploaded to YouTube, screening is not undertaken. Rather, YouTube relies on users of the site to flag up inappropriate material. However, the article states that often, people who view neo-Nazi videos “would have no incentive to flag the content, so repeated viewings would benefit the group through revenue sharing.

Virgin Media told the Guardian that the company “has a strict policy on its ad placement, so we are concerned about ads appearing against unrelated and unsuitable content on YouTube. We are currently engaged with our advertising partners and Google to understand what measures can be put into place to prevent these occurrences going forwards.”

“Robert Levine, the former executive editor of Billboard magazine who writes about copyright technology, says it is an ethical problem: “I’ve looked at these videos. It’s very disturbing stuff.

“”Like Google in general, YouTube hides its corporate irresponsibility behind freedom of speech. But there are times when it seems more interested in its own freedom to sell advertising.””

Earlier this week it was reported that Google had removed 640 videos that allegedly promote terrorism at the behest of requests from the Association of Chief Police Officers in the UK, as well as governments. Given the increase in extreme far-right populist sentiment in recent years, one is prompted to question how seriously authorities and online giants, such as Google, are taking the risks of incitement to hatred and racism on social media and online platforms. As the February report by the Home Affairs Committee on the Roots of Violent Radicalisation found, the internet is increasingly a sphere of concern in challenging radicalization, political violence and terrorism.