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New terror bill ‘risks criminalising foolish internet users’

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Anti-terror bill aims to focus on internet activity

Inquisitive or “foolish” internet users could end up being jailed under planned new terror laws, a Parliamentary committee has warned.

The anti-terrorism and border security bill is designed to combat “hostile state” activity and the terror threat.

It aims to close loopholes in current legislation surrounding technological and cyber activity.

But the committee scrutinising it fears it could criminalise innocent internet users and breach EU human rights law.

Labour MP Harriet Harman, who chairs the committee, said: “This Bill still crosses the line on human rights.”

But others have argued tougher measures are needed.

Conservative peer Lord Tebbit, speaking in the Lords, at the second reading of the bill, said: “The nature of the threat today is different, and it is made worse by the rise of so-called social media, which provides an open platform for the proponents of terrorism.”

Clause 3 of the Bill, which includes a wide range of anti-terrorism measures, would criminalise people who accessed terrorist material just once, meaning the curious could be snared by it, the committee on human rights said.

In its report, the committee said the planned new law “may capture academic and journalistic research as well as those with inquisitive or even foolish minds”.

It said Parliament needs to consider “deletion or amendment of clauses that would make it an offence to view or otherwise access terrorist material online”.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “After the spate of terrorist attacks of last year and the deadly nerve agent attack in Salisbury, our intelligence services and police made the case for an update of existing legislation.”

The government has yet to formally respond to the committee’s report.

Policing online activity has been on the government agenda for some years, with former Home Secretary Amber Rudd threatening in 2017 to tighten laws so people who repeatedly views terrorist material could be jailed for up to 15 years.

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