The Coalition Government's Prevent counter terrorism strategy has been unveiled by Home Secretary Theresa May. Prevent has been billed as a plan to deal with all forms of terrorism and extremism including non-violent extremism. The strategy advocates joint action by the police, local authorities and community groups, as well as universities, colleges, prisons, health organisations and charities and will have an impact on all areas of British life.
The Pirate Party is deeply concerned at some of the positions being taken within the strategy. It would seem that elements of this strategy could represent an unparalleled risk to freedom of expression both online and offline. The strategy also seems to open the possibility of expanding extra-judicial methods of curtailing legitimate political discussion. These are to be implemented by branches of Government directly and by private companies at their behest:
We need to take to address the threat of radicalisation online... Ensure that action is taken to try to remove unlawful and harmful content from the internet... Internet filtering across the public estate is essential.
- Prevent Strategy, June 2011
It is important that any counter-terrorism strategy adopted by the government is fit for purpose, effective and based on evidence. While what little evidence presented suggests that the threat of terrorist action is significantly lower than it has been in the past, political decisions are being made to heighten the perceived risk. The Pirate Party UK finds it concerning that a strategy intended to protect British values may instead be used to undermine them.
It seems that the government is all too happy to praise the power of the Internet in the Middle East, yet fears it on home ground. I am worried that this is a slippery slope to undermining the very freedoms the report purports to protect.
- Loz Kaye, Leader of the UK Pirate Party.