UK's Theresa May seeks TV, social media ban on extremists views

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference of the governing Conservatives that if re-elected next year, the party will introduce civil powers to disrupt people who 'spread poisonous hatred' even within the law.

Luke MacGregor/Reuters
Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May speaks at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, central England, September 30, 2014.

Britain's interior minister on Tuesday proposed new powers to bar people with extremist views from appearing on television or publishing on social media, even if they are not breaking any laws.

Home Secretary Theresa May told a conference of the governing Conservatives that if re-elected next year, the party will introduce civil powers to disrupt people who "spread poisonous hatred" even within the law.

Under the proposal, police could apply for a court order to disrupt "harmful activity" by restricting an individual's movements, preventing them from speaking in public or stopping them publishing articles online.

May said that only a minority of extremists are violent, but "the damage that extremists cause to our society is reason enough to act."

May said that at least 500 Britons have traveled to fight with Islamic militants in Syria and Iraq, and tough measures are needed to stop young people becoming radicalized.

She said the proposed rules could be used against neo-Nazis and other radicals as well as Islamic extremists.

The proposals will be included in the Conservatives' election platform, but are not guaranteed to become law. The Conservatives' coalition partners, the centrist Liberal Democrats, scuttled an earlier bill to give police and spy agencies wide powers to snoop on email traffic, Internet browsing and social media sites.

Civil libertarians — including some Conservatives — said May's anti-extremism proposals were repressive and potentially counterproductive.

A ban on leaders of the Irish Republican Army-linked Sinn Fein party appearing on radio and television in the 1980s and '90s led to their words being spoken by actors and is now widely seen as ineffective.

Conservative lawmaker David Davis, speaking to the BBC, cautioned against "forgetting what we're defending."

"We're defending a liberal democracy, one in which you can say all sorts of things," Davis said.

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