After the recent terrorist hits on the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May called for more powerful security measures to be taken for the sake of “national security”. However, when she talked about improving the security, she did not mean a stronger filtration process regarding immigration or even shutting down known extremists locations. The Prime Minister is pushing for a more regulated internet and a higher level of surveillance. In other words, she is calling on increasing online restrictions. She stated the following:
“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning. And we need to do everything we can at home to reduce the risks of extremism online.”
Of course it is undeniable that terrorist groups have been abusing the absence of internet restrictions in their communications including spreading out their messages and attracting new recruits. On the other hand, the government is not that trust worthy either as they will most probably be using the online restrictions to be tackling criticism on extremism actions instead of tracking down the extremists themselves.
The main aim here by the governments in Europe in general is battling hate speeches online. Some nations such as Germany pushed to fine Facebook $53 million if it does not comply and start censoring any “offensive” views or hate speeches. This is the reason or justification used by most governments to push for gaining the power of surveillance and increasing online restrictions. Any online restrictions are always followed by the term “for the sake of national security”, even though in reality the collecting and saving of massive amounts of online data never did any good in the favor of fighting terrorism.
Everyone surely hopes that these online restrictions would only be on those sites of extremists and any sites that promote extremism, however, UK’s online restrictions history showed that any laws brought forward regarding online restrictions would only target those voicing their opinions against extremism. It will only target tackling freedom of speech instead of tackling the main danger which this speech is about.
If we take a wider look at the situation and focus on the history of the relationship between terrorist attacks worldwide and the government’s response, we will find that in the majority of cases governments respond to these attacks by increasing the level of online restrictions and/or online surveillance. It’s as if they are using these attacks to their own benefits, to gain a stronger hand to push for online surveillance and online restrictions. This is not only in the UK but all over Europe and even the world. Whenever a terrorist attack takes place by extremists, the first government response is to tackle online freedom, and ends up with restricting critics of extremists instead of restricting the extremists which should have been the main target.