Repeal Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (Make freedom of expression legal on the internet.)
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Section 127: "A person is guilty of an offence if he sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive."
"The young women of today can never know at what price their right to free speech has been earned" Lucy Stone - Suffragette
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" Voltaire
Section 127 makes it illegal to say anything offensive on the internet.
This law has been used to lock up people purely for updating their status on Facebook or sending out a tweet with their thoughts.
Because offence is a matter of personal opinion and emotional reaction this law effectively criminalises ALL speech on the internet. Even this very petition would be considered illegal under the law if someone found it grossly offensive.
Being free to express your opinions and criticise the government is the cornerstone of a democratic society. Our forefathers fought and died for us to have this freedom, will we give it up without a fight?
Already 20,000 people have already been investigated under Section 127 many have been jailed. More than 2000 children have been investigated. One lady committed suicide because she was so scared that she might be sent to jail, purely because she exercised her right to free speech.
We were all shocked by the terrorists attack against the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris in retribution for publishing cartoons of Mohammed. Many people took to the streets and online to express support for the magazines right to offend people using the phrase 'Je suis Charlie.' Yet, make no mistaked, these offensive cartoons are already illegal in the UK.
Offence is an emotion like happiness and sadness, it's not an act that you can do to someone. You can try really hard to offend someone and fail entirely or you can offend someone without even meaning to. Arresting someone for offending someone else is as illiberal as arresting a person for making someone sad.
Lets take two statements:
"There is a God."
There is no god."
They are contradictory statements. But in fact both would be considered massively offensive by small minorities of the population. Yet, there is nothing objectively offensive with the statements. They contain no swear words or harsh criticisms. They are still many times more offensive to some people than a swear word covered page. This is because offence is subjective and there can never be an objective measure of it.
Some people see offence as purely a negative thing. But in fact giving offence is necessary in any community. Just like we need to give praise and compliments when someone does a good job, we need to give offence and criticism when someone does a bad job. Criticism is the easiest way to offend someone, yet, it is the most important. Think of the times in your life when you were the most offended. Was it when someone swore at you or when someone criticised an aspect of your personality? Now, do you think it should be illegal to criticise your mechanic for doing a bad job? Or our government?
Should free speech have limits? Perhaps so, but there are already many reasonable limits built into British law. For example, you can't slander someone. You also can't harass people, which is defined as repeated actions that purposely cause alarm or distress to another person. Laws against harassment and other similar laws protect our freedom of expression because we are still able to express our thoughts and opinions without fear of being arrested. Section 127 though, offers not such protection for our freedom of expression but undermines it at its very core.
PS. The law is also a massive waste of police time. The Met already has a special division set up just for this type of crime. That police time could be spent patrolling the streets and keeping you safe from being raped or murdered. Instead, it is being spent attacking your liberties.
Now is the time for this petition. The police are stepping up their investigations and arrests of people under Section 127. As more and more people seek to use the law to their own advantage the police are lowering the level of 'offence' they think is needed to investigate or arrest someone. 27,000 silly people signed a petition to arrest someone just for writing something on twitter. (Remember it's purely their opinion, technically they could arrest everyone.)
But, the election is round the corner and people are fighting back. More and more internet posts are in defence of free speech and against this immoral law. More and more people are educating their friends on why their offence doesn't mean someone else should go to jail and on the importance of free speech and a free soceity in general.
If asked all of our leaders will say that they support free speech. But which of them are willing to make it a manifesto commitment to repeal Section 127?
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have sat in government for five years and done nothing to repeal this law. Though they did amend a similar law (Section 5 of the Public Order Offences.)
Nick Clegg spoke out recently in support of the right to offend but without mentioning people that his government have locked up for offending people in the UK.
Nigel Farage has criticised the arrests of citizens for offending people but has not said whether it will be a manifesto commitment to repeal Section 127.
Ed Miliband has been silent on the issue and the Labour party brought in the law to begin with.
Natalie Bennet and the Green Party have also been silent on the issue.
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