“We don’t want to be left alone in taking action because we don’t believe in… simply leaving it to trust,” he said. “It is not the role of the intermediaries to be judge and jury. It’s to empower people to express themselves.” 

Meanwhile, in April, the Web’s five largest Internet companies—Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, and Yahoo—delivered a thinly veiled warning to Theresa May that they will not voluntarily cooperate with the Communications Data Act, dubbed “snooper’s charter” by the UK press.

In a letter leaked this week to the Guardian, the Web giants said May’s proposals would be “expensive to implement and highly contentious.”

May’s comments have provoked a fierce free-speech debate. “Generalised pre-censorship of ‘disgusting views’ at the behest of an interior minister would start us down a very slippery slope,” Timothy Garton Ash wrote in a Guardian commentary. “To entrust our freedom of expression to the Home Office is like putting your aching tooth in the tender care of a road-mender wielding a waist-high pneumatic drill.”

Tim Stevens, the coauthor of a 2009 study into countering online radicalization, told the Guardian that any strategy that relies on restricting online content alone was bound to be expensive and counterproductive. 

“Anyone who knows anything about the Internet knows that [even if] you take something off the Internet, [it] is likely to be back on it again within an hour, or downloaded onto hard drives,”said Stevens. 

Disclosure: CJR has received funding from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to cover intellectual-property issues, but the organization has no influence on the content.

 

Alison Langley has more than 25 years experience in journalism as a reporter and editor. Her stories have appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times, The Guardian, The FT and The Independent. She currently lectures in journalism at Fachhochschule Wien and Webster University Vienna.