MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

British Lawmaker Wants to Ban Your Private Facebook Groups Because She Worries You're Using Hate Speech

Bill also calls for holding forum moderators legally liable for extreme speech.

Lucy PowellJoel Goodman/ZUMA Press/NewscomU.K. Parliament member Lucy Powell of the Labour Party wants to use her government authority to ban your private online group discussions.

I'm not exaggerating here. Powell introduced legislation in the House of Commons this week that would ban secret, private, invite-only groups on Facebook. It would go so far as to hold moderators legally responsible for hate speech or defamation on the forums.

Powell believes that secret online groups are responsible for radicalization (rather than the more logical likelihood that radicalization prompts people to seek out private online outlets). And she has this strange idea that outrageous ideas presented on social media outlets simply don't get challenged. She writes in The Guardian:

Online echo chambers are normalising and allowing extremist views to go viral unchallenged. These views are spread as the cheap thrill of racking up Facebook likes drives behaviour and reinforces a binary worldview. Some people are being groomed unwittingly as unacceptable language is treated as the norm. Others have a more sinister motive.

While in the real world, alternative views would be challenged by voices of decency in the classroom, staffroom, or around the dining-room table, there are no societal norms in the dark crevices of the online world. The impact of these bubbles of hate can be seen, in extreme cases, in terror attacks from radicalised individuals. But we can also see it in the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson supporters rampaging through the streets this summer, or in increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism.

In fact, extremist views get challenged all the time, online and elsewhere, by people like Powell and by many, many others. But she doesn't really mean that these views aren't being "challenged." What she means is that these radical views aren't being punished.

Powell notes that allowing private groups to exist "locks out the police, intelligence services and charities that could otherwise engage with the groups and correct disinformation." By "correct disinformation" she actually means "prosecute people." She doesn't say as much in her Guardian column, but her motion for consideration of the bill explicitly says that too few people have been prosecuted under the United Kingdom's Communications Act, which criminalizes online hate speech. She makes it clear that she doesn't think enough people are being punished by the government for saying bad things. This is not about correcting disinformation at all:

[O]nline hate crimes are still rarely prosecuted and go largely unreported. Our laws desperately need to catch up. Today I am proposing a small step to establish clear accountability in law for what is published on online forums and to force those who run the forums no longer to permit hate, disinformation and criminal activity.

The Evening Standard notes that the members of Parliament who support Powell's bill have themselves been subjects of online harassment. So most certainly part of this push involves elected government officials trying to stop people from saying stuff about them that they don't like under the guise of protecting citizens from harassment.

Powell talks about extremists trying to radicalize people into violence, but a look at how hate speech laws in U.K. are actually investigated paints a different picture. Over the weekend, viral outrage (of the like Powell worries about) erupted when the South Yorkshire Police tweeted out encouragement for citizens to report incidents of hate to them, even if they weren't even crimes under U.K. law:

After people complained that the tweet was reminiscent of Orwellian speech controls, the police department's chief constable responded that they had been misconstrued and that people were exaggerating the department's intent. He says he wants to keep track of what's going on in the community to engage in "proactive police work to try and stop crimes from happening in the first place."

But thanks to the United Kingdom's hate speech laws, that's actually what makes the department's behavior "Orwellian." The "crimes" he is trying to stop involve people expressing opinions that the government has officially declared hateful and off-limits. One reason his police department wants to investigate is to tell people they aren't allowed to say certain things.

And now M.P.s like Powell are deliberately looking for more opportunities to track down and punish people for saying things the government finds hateful, going so far as to try to ban private groups on social media entirely because the police cannot snoop on them. The privacy of your secret little online group where you complain about your neighbors (and perhaps even your local police!) is jeopardized because Powell thinks you're going to turn people violent.

Photo Credit: Joel Goodman/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    What the heck is it with all these Lucys today?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Oh boy.

  • ||

    I hear handing out Lucys left and right will get you strangled to death in parts of NYC.

  • ||

    And here I thought the various Naomi's were the nutcases.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I nominate this to be her new theme song, because she is obviously tripping on something. Heck, it can be the new sarcastic OK we give to any politician making an idiotic proposal.

  • Rorschach||

    F
    I say F-A
    F-A-G
    F-A-G-G
    Fagg
    F-A-G-G
    Fagg, Fagg, Fagg, Fagg

    D
    I say D-Y
    D-Y-K
    D-Y-K-E
    Dyke
    F-A-G-G D-Y-K-E
    Fagg Dyke

    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    F-A-G-G D-Y-K-E
    Fagg Dyke

    T
    I say T-R
    T-R-A
    T-R-A-N
    T-R-A-N-N
    T-R-A-N-N-I-E-S

    D
    I say D-Y
    D-Y-K
    D-Y-K-E
    Dyke
    D-Y-K-E
    Dyke, Dyke, Dyke, Dyke

    F
    I say F-A
    F-A-G
    F-A-G-G
    Fagg
    F-A-G-G D-Y-K-E
    Fagg Dyke

    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    Fagg Dyke
    Doo-dee-ah-dah-dee-ah-dah
    F-A-G-G D-Y-K-E
    Fagg Dyke

  • CDRSchafer||

    She said her name was Lucy but we all called her loose!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Powell introduced legislation in the House of Commons this week that would ban secret, private, invite-only groups on Facebook.

    I wouldn't want to write my hate speech in a Facebook group that would have me as a member.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    lol

  • Hank Phillips||

    You don't *look* Bluish.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Online echo chambers are normalising and allowing extremist views to go viral unchallenged.

    Echo chambers allow entire islands of people to become allergic to zeds.

  • Alcibiades||

    Lucy Powell is an authoritarian bitch and it's time to watch that hilarious nazi-saluting dog video again.

  • Rockabilly||

    Why that's hate speech!!

    Prepare for your gulag chamber !!!

  • Alcibiades||

    Hate speech; it's the best kind.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    She's also got the most severe case of Resting Bitch Face I've ever encountered. I'm afraid the only known cure for RBS of that magnitude is a 2x4 to the face.

  • perlchpr||

    How about a wooden baseball bat to the back of the head?

  • vek||

    That video was hilarious! Dogs really are mans best friend.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Hey, that comment is an insult to bitches!

  • Rockabilly||

    Lucy Powell is a Stalinist.

    I hate Lucy Powell, Stalinists, fascists, and other authoritarian nut jobs.

    Now try to arrest me for 'hate speech!'

  • Microaggressor||

    Something something woodchipper

  • perlchpr||

    That stupid cunt needs to be run through a woodchipper, and if she has kids, they need to go in first.

  • vek||

    Nah, her kids might grow up to be decent human beings... Especially after they see mommy run through the woodchipper, and realize being an authoritarian asshole is a job that just doesn't pay.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Apparently it pays pretty well. Ask your local politician.

  • vek||

    Well, of course it pays well... Until people have enough, and start giving out complementary helicopter rides!

  • Cloudbuster||

    Nah. Personality and political orientation have a significant genetic basis. Why take the chance?

  • vek||

    That research is pretty interesting stuff. One of the interesting takeaways is that conservatives have been breeding a lot more, and so the bleeding heart minded people will become outnumbered. Generation Z is already showing signs of a strong shift that direction, which happens to coincide with the era when liberals stopped having kids at close to the same rates as conservatives.

    I have issues with both bleeding heart liberals, and stodgy conservatives... But if a society has to be dominated by one or the other, I'll take the hardcore conservatives every time. At least they can produce a functional, if boring, civilization!

  • Longtobefree||

    Don't visit London any time soon - - - - - - - - -

  • Alcibiades||

    How did it all go down the toilet so fast over there?

  • BYODB||

    When was it out of the toilet over there? Hell, at least they're not ruled by inbred tyrants anymore. No, their tyrants marry outside their family these days I hear. That's an improvement, I guess.

  • Alcibiades||

    The founders drew extensively on Lockean natural rights theory to write the Constitution, Jefferson "borrowed" from Locke so often he got tagged with being the "American Locke".
    Guess they've totally turned their back on their intellectual heritage.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Dead white males have no place in education any more.

  • Flinch||

    Then self identify as a newt, and demand endangered species protection? There's no reason to stop at gender confusion when you can go full bore into other species/

  • JeremyR||

    When they imported a king from Germany

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Yeah, when you run out of monarchs, it's time to become a republic instead of importing a new one.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It started with progressives cheering on violent Communists during the Cold War. They felt lost after the Berlin Wall fell. Clinton's election gave them hope, until the his love life ruined his reputation. Once the towers fell on 9/11, progressives geared up to fight the long fight for their progressive values ... N'uff said.

  • Flinch||

    That and they lost too many good men between two world wars. I wonder if political correctness is a function of too many skirts running a country first, and communist style theories second. That ought to get the triggered standing in line and using the handrails...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    What she means is that these radical views aren't being punished.

    Scott Shackleford: Mansplainer

  • Cynical Asshole||

    At least he's not a manspreader...

    Then again maybe he is.

  • Zeb||

    Well, he's either the spreader or the spread.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Ain't we all.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I like a man spreader.

  • ||

    Why do I get the impression that Lucy Powell is a vile shrew who hates lots of people behind their back?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Clearly she was not invited to join any secret clubs as a child, and they were all saying mean things about her

  • sarcasmic||

    Don't talk about Lucy? I'm so confused.

  • ||

    For most of the last 70 years, the use of "Orwellian" was generally hyperbolic. Even today, it's still mostly that case, particularly in the US. But it really does appear that we've reached that point in the UK where it's no longer hyperbolic to use that descriptor regarding almost all of their current law enforcement methods and priorities.

  • ||

    I was looking at that Twitter post and just thinking that somebody needs to update 1984. Instead of sometimes mustachioed, somewhat Stalin-esque Big Brother posters, it needs to have a diverse array of Big Sibling posters.

  • vek||

    Yup. It's truly terrifying. People like her REALLY do want to create a world that is like that. Or, more realistically a world that is a combination of 1984 and Brave New World.

    Some YouTube vid I watched a few weeks ago, a guy said something rather smart. He said "People have long debated which version of the future will be right, 1984 or Brave New World? It's both. For those that go along with the plan, and keep their heads down, buy into the lies, it will be Brave New World. For those that defy them, it will be 1984 and the jack boot stomping on a human face for eternity" or something to that effect.

    It's basically already there. They want to crush all dissent, and keep everybody else dumb and compliant on their various forms of Soma. :(

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Great Britain: an example to our Progressives, and a warning to the rest of us.

  • Zeb||

    "perceived to be motivated by..."

    Now that couldn't possibly be abused.

  • BYODB||

    Don't worry, the selective enforcement is a feature!

  • Alcibiades||

    Just be grateful Hamilton didn't prevail in No. 84 otherwise we'd likely be in the same position and no right to keep and bear arms for sure.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    Powell notes that allowing private groups to exist "locks out the police, intelligence services and charities that could otherwise engage with the groups and correct disinformation." By "correct disinformation" she actually means "prosecute people."

    Her next step will probably be to establish special camps where the "disinformation" will be "corrected" through re-education.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    They are called psych wards.

  • Flinch||

    Police might be inconvenienced lacking some cause for discovery, but zero chance intelligence types are truly locked out. Expanding "hate crimes" any further is a crime against humanity: people are hard pressed to discover what ideas may be no good without discussing them. Queue up some black flag for the UK: "Drink black coffee... Stare at the wall!" It's going to be Englands national anthem if their pols keep this up.

  • Alcibiades||

    It's so bad in the UK now that quoting rap lyrics online can get you hauled into court and convicted.

  • Sevo||

    It's no wonder we kicked those scumbags out of the US.

  • BYODB||


    In fact, extremist views get challenged all the time, online and elsewhere, by people like Powell and by many, many others.


    C'mon Scott, you can name us individually. ^_-


    Kidding, of course. This Brit should visit Reason, or the internet itself, just to see how much everyone argues on the internet. The fact this chica isn't aware of what actually goes on online is possibly the most shocking thing of all in this article.

  • damikesc||

    While in the real world, alternative views would be challenged by voices of decency in the classroom, staffroom, or around the dining-room table, there are no societal norms in the dark crevices of the online world.

    Yeah, that happens. The mob brays about somebody being mean and that person is silenced.

    Your country imprisoned a guy for covering a trial, you feckless cunt.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Fuck the British and their garbage island.

    I hate you England! See, hate speech.

  • vek||

    It's so sad. I love English culture in so many ways. And they, more than anyone else, laid the foundation for all the ideas of freedom we take for granted nowadays... And they are some of the worst on earth now in that respect. It's so sad. I really hope the British wake the fuck up and kick their government in the ass good and hard, and take back some of their freedom.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Leaving the EU was a good first step.

  • vek||

    Yup. In some ways I am almost more glad Brexit happened than Trump. They're both signs of the world getting a little more sane on things, push back against internationalism as a good in and of itself, etc. But Brexit in a way is almost an even stronger showing of national pride and nationalism, which need to return if the western world is ever to survive.

    The EU needs to crash and burn. The whole idea that the whole world can just become some global, warm, fuzzy wuzzy group hug session is nonsense... It will never work, and people need to be reminded of that.

  • soldiermedic76||

    We give thanks for whoever fired that first shot at Lexington green.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    If you'll allow me to be the devil's advocate for a moment, something that Farrakhan thinks I am wont to do, society does need a consistent criteria for "fighting words". You are obviously allowed to get physical if someone says, "I'm going to fuck you up!" It's less clear if he says, "Fuck you bitch." A handful of leaders in the West think that rolling one's eyes is a threatening gesture depending on the skin color of the eye roller and the recipient of that gesture. 8-|

  • Cloudbuster||

    It's less clear if he says, "Fuck you bitch."

    No, that's perfectly clear. You don't get to hit someone for saying "Fuck you bitch."

  • Longtobefree||

    You do not get to hit them with your fist, or a blunt object; however, on a college campus you an hit them with a Title IX inquisition.

  • vek||

    You know, I'm almost 100% certain at this point in time that the western world will never be free again until all the people like this lady are either dead, or so terrified to open their mouths and say stupid shit like this out loud that they dare not do it.

    I think a good number of them will have to be dead before the rest are too scared to open their mouths... Not making any suggestions or anything here... Just sayin'.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Patience and generational turnover will work wonders. My animal behavior professor said that science advances when old scientists die. Then again, he's the guy with fond memories of living naked among the chimpanzees in Africa for a while without contact with any humans. Not exactly the guy to put in charge of your local nursing home.

  • vek||

    That is true... Especially about the science thing!

    The thing that worries me is that demographic trends aren't entirely in favor of things getting better. Gen Z supposedly is more conservative leaning than Millennials or Gen X or whatever... But the trend lines beyond that DO NOT look good at first blush, purely on the basis of who those people are, the cultures they come from, etc.

    Like it or not, group identity is a MAJOR and real factor, and unless Hispanics, or Blacks or whatever shift conservative/libertarian HARD... The USA is done for. Problem is they, and other smaller groups, mostly all have real world gains to be had from a large and powerful state, such as through the massive wealth transfer payments the receive from mostly whites/Jews/Asians.

    I always hope for the best, but I wouldn't say I'm EXPECTING the best.

  • Midnightrider||

    Agreed.

  • Midnightrider||

    Agreed.

  • Hank Phillips||

    This is silly. The income tax from the communist manifesto pays Powell's salary and subsidizes her dupes. All of them are thinking what they're paid to think. The solution is not violence, but rather, using libertarian spoiler votes to reverse the effect of the looter spoiler votes that created the bad situation.

  • speedylee||

    How does something in a private group go viral? The internet must be so confusing for the UK.

  • Duelles||

    If she succeeds she will find out just how hateful hate speech can get. Bless her heart for having a strong opinion, but damn her for being so dumb.

  • SovereignMary||

    Isn't this British lawmaker displaying her hatred by wanting to ban others Unalienable Rights to Free Speech? Hmmmm?

  • Longtobefree||

    "Unalienable Rights to Free Speech"

    You did admit this is (not so) Great Britain, not the US, right?

  • SovereignMary||

    People have and are born with Unalienable God-given Natural Individual Rights no matter where they are born. It is only through despots and dictators like this despicable British Parliment Putz by the name of Lucy Powell that their Unalienable Rights are ignored, torn asunder and denied.

  • Brett Bellmore||

    On the plus side, SJW's are going to be responsible for mankind's colonization of space... By making cold, dark, dangerous tunnels on other planets and asteroids look better than remaining on Earth!

    See, if England were an asteroid colony, they could just shove her out an airlock without a space suit, problem solved.

  • vek||

    LOL

    Well, we do have our ways here on earth too! What do you think helicopters were invented for? ;)

  • Fredar||

    Seems a bit silly... I mean what's stopping you from making a secret, private, invite-only group in your own home? That's what shady people used to do before Internet.

  • Cloudbuster||

    They'll outlaw that next.

  • Cloudbuster||

    In fact, extremist views get challenged all the time, online and elsewhere, by people like Powell

    I think Powell is the extremist in the room.

  • Hank Phillips||

    George Orwell was sent to National Socialist Germany shortly after the surrender and returned to write 1984. In Powell we have another nationalsocialist politician who claims that opposition to the Anschluss into the EU is Thoughtcrime and must be either extirpated or exterminated, depending on which English edition of Mein Kampf she is reading from. Is this what comes of having no Second Amendment?

  • Roqin' Robin||

    " Is this what comes of having no Second Amendment? "
    Wow, great point! I hadn't even thought of that, but it is true that without it, we might already be silenced also.
    You've encouraged me to follow that line of reasoning for my blog. Thank you!

  • Longtobefree||

    For an example of hate speech, I submit the following:
    " But we can also see it in the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson supporters rampaging through the streets this summer, or in increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism."

  • vek||

    Best part: Tommy Robinson is apparently part Jewish! The lefties are off their friggin' rockers.

  • Flinch||

    Absolute politburo bilge. A private/invite only forum is on par with a dinner party in your home, and the conversation there. But lets expand that to say... a university: are debate societies going to get closed too? England can't get any dumber.

  • tingaling||

    Free speech is only counteracted by MORE free speech... NEVER less freedom of speech.

    In the Marketplace of IDEAS.....

    what I see here is a failure to communicate her point of view in a convincing enough way to sway public opinion in favor of her personal viewpoint. SO....ins5tead of developing a winning argument to sway and persuade the public's opinion she fails as a citizen. She advocates to shut down free speech instead of doing her best job and PUBLIC DUTY to
    persuade opinion via MORE freedom of speech.

    FreeSpeech MuthaFwocker...

  • LiborCon||

    Airstrip One should gradually eliminate harmful words from the English vocabulary so that it's impossible to use hate speech.

    "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it."

  • vek||

    That part of the book... And that part of the book being carried out in the real world, is one of the things that terrifies me most. They're really trying to do this both via the education system, and via shaming/blacklisting words through their culturally powerful entities like the media. It's scary shit.

  • Julia Peculiar||

    Talk about twisting the facts, This article is exactly the reason she's put a bill forward to tackle such misinformation and incitement of hate and division. She doesn't propose banning groups but having them better regulated. What does this writer have a problem with exactly? People's right to be respected? Having his own articles scrutinized perhaps? If we let the likes of this misinformation to run rampant we just end up with groups of fools who'll believe whatever they are told or fits with their worldviews whether correct in their assumptions or not. People who promote respect are not weak as many of your readers here seem to think, it takes a great deal of strength to stand up the likes of bullies who will put anyone down who stands up for fair play and justice.

  • Roqin' Robin||

    "What does this writer have a problem with exactly? " Perhaps it's the loss of privacy, which is still a right here in the states, yet we are being told that we have to play by the rules of everyone else who comes to the internet and tries to restrict its freedoms. It's becoming more and more apparent why the Dark Web is getting so popular...

  • Rynosaur||

    Funny how it's only the "far right" that is extreme in her eyes. I'm sure echo chambers are responsible for plenty of the far left's insane ideas, as well.

  • Roqin' Robin||

    I'm curious: What is with the recent rash of UK /EU lawmakers creating all sorts of new rules for the internet? Are Europeans too immature to think for themselves, or is this just a case of those in power seizing even more power? And why are the laws binding on us in the USA? Isn't this a violation of our sovereignty, having to give up our own rights because a foreign interest is paranoid or totalitarian? Why is there no exception for internet companies that aren't located in the countries (which are restricting us) to be able to ignore these laws, which in most cases seem to be unconstitutional anyway? Have I missed something? Admittedly, I've spent a great deal of time in hospitals over the last decade, but I've tried to keep up with most events and haven't heard anyone else question this. Can anyone help me out with links or information please? TIA

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online