Big Brother Watch is highlighting the problem with censoring controversial but legal speech, by showcasing comments previously made by UK politicians. The civil liberties group warned that the upcoming Online Safety Bill would make the censorship situation worse. Big Brother Watch conducted an experiment, where it used dummy personal accounts to post quotes previously made by politicians, including PM Boris Johnson and Labour Party’s deputy leader Angela Rayner. Rayner’s comment that police officers should “shoot terrorists and ask questions second” was blocked for “violence and incitement.” Johnson’s comment that Muslim women in burkas resemble “letterboxes” was removed for “harassment and bullying.”
Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner’s comment, “shoot your terrorists and ask questions second” made in February this year was removed from Facebook when posted by a dummy account, for breaching the violence and incitement policy. - Big Brother Watch.
Boris Johnson’s 2018 comment that Muslim women wearing burkas look “like letter boxes” was removed by Facebook for breaching its policies on “harassment and bullying,” when posted by our dummy account. - Big Brother Watch.
Big Brother Watch acknowledged that the comments were “unpleasant,” but argued that was “not a legitimate basis for censorship.” The civil liberties group appealed the removals, but Facebook refused to reinstate the posts. Big Brother Watch said the removals were testament to the “chilling effect on free speech” the upcoming Online Safety Bill would bring. It added that its experiment “clearly demonstrates that such controversial yet lawful speech is destined for unprecedented censorship.”