Get Involved!

If you are interested in submitting a piece of work to be published on this blog, please email
Views are strictly those of the individual author.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Want to know why sharing the video of James Foley's murder is illegal?

According to an article published in the Guardian Wednesday 20 August 2014 "passing on clips of Isis militant murdering US journalist on social media could lead to prosecution under anti-terror laws".

(Photo from The Guardian, Credit Nicole Tung/AP)

According to the Guardian, Scotland Yard has indicated that under terrorism legislation, sharing or viewing the video of James Foley's Murder is illegal. Social Media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Youtube are working hard to suspend accounts and remove offensive images. At first, these images were being removed for being 'offensive' and going against their user agreements; but now with legal backing, the clampdown on social media is heightened.

More specifically, according to The Guardian, the Metropolitan police said in a statement: "The MPS counter-terrorism command (SO15) is investigating the contents of the video that was posted online in relation to the alleged murder of James Foley. We would like to remind the public that viewing, downloading or disseminating extremist material within the UK may constitute an offence under terrorism legislation".

SO15 is responsible for protecting London and the UK from threats of terrorism. You can find out more about them HERE. I wanted to understand more about why sharing and 'viewing' the video could be considered a crime, and also what part of the Terrorism Legislation sharing videos or pictures falls under.

Having looked at, it appears that Section 1 and Section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006 cover areas that are related to the 'Encouragement of Terrorism". Section 1 starts by saying that Encouragement of Terrorism applies to
"a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences".
It continues:
"A person commits an offence if (a) he publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and (b) at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published he - (i) intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or (ii) is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences".  
If you are re-tweeting something or sharing it on Youtube or Facebook, you are at risk of being seen to make a statement that could be understood by members of the public to be 'directly or indirectly encouraging others or instigating acts of terrorism'. Its possible that by sharing the video and photos, you are fueling feelings of hate which could lead to a reaction. However, even if you DONT end up encouraging someone to 'commit, prepare or instigate any such offence' you can still get in trouble because as stated in subsection 5:
It is irrelevant for the purposes of subsections (1) to (3) (a) whether anything mentioned in those subsections relates to the commission, preparation or instigation of one or more particular acts of terrorism.... (b) whether any person is in fact encouraged or induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate any such act of offence".  
So what this means is that if you share videos or photos, you can be held criminally responsible even if there is no outcome based on your actions. But why do the Met Police warn about viewing videos? This part comes down to the way that Social Media is designed. On Facebook, for example, if you view a video, sometimes this shows up on your 'Facebook Friends' newsfeeds. On Youtube, if you view a video, it increases that video's count which means it moves up in the list of 'search results' which are based on most popular videos. Although it is a stretch, there are still ways that even viewing a video can result in you sharing content which, under the Terrorism Act 2006 is illegal.

If you are still not convinced by this social media crackdown and insist on Freedom of Speech and being able to watch and share what you want, you might want to consider the potential outcomes first. According to Section 1 subsection 7:
A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable - (a) on conviction of indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years or to a fine or both; (b) on summary conviction in England and Wales, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum...
Furthermore, Section 2 deals specifically with Dissemination of terrorist publications and subsection 2 states:
...a person engages in conduct falling within this subsection if he - (a) distributes or circulates a terrorist publication; (b) gives, sells or lends such a publication (c) offers such a publication for sale or loan; (d) provides services to others that enables them to obtain, read, listen to or look at such a publication, or to acquire it by means of a gift, sale or loan; (e) transmits the contents of such a publication electronically; or (f) has such a publication in his possession with a view to its becoming the subject of conduct falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e).
It finishes with: ...
'publication' means an article or record of any description that contains any of the following, or any combination of them - (a) matter to be read; (b) matter to be listened to; (c) matter to be looked at or watched.

This section relates a lot more to the actions that are most likely to be taken across social media platforms. The same sentences apply if a person is found guilty of the offences listed above.

Besides the moral issues surrounding instances of people sharing this video and photos, there are also many legal considerations as well which are leading us into a whole new wave of criminal offences based on technological advances.

A Neaverson 

No comments:

Post a Comment