Beyond “Ban” or “No-Ban”: Responding to Online Extremism
The Henry Jackson Society’s Centre on Radicalisation & Terrorism has released a report exploring freedom of speech, online extremist content, and regulation by technology companies. The report emphasizes the balancing act of respecting civil liberties, while simultaneously acknowledging the need to police online content in the interest of public safety. Free to Be Extreme proposes a grading scale for online extremist harm which “allows for different approaches to be employed to react to extremism, as opposed to a binary ‘ban or no-ban’ option.”
The proposed grading system of extremist harm (from 0 – 15.2) is based on an examination of 107 legal cases in the United Kingdom involving hate crimes and terrorism online between 2015 and 2019. Each case was coded using 20 extremism indicators, which account for a variety of factors including the offender’s influence, remorse and appeals process, incitement, history, and intent.
The report explains that a spectrum of extremism and a lack of regulation has resulted in a “definitional vacuum” which makes the task of policing online extremist content particularly challenging for technology companies. As extremists continue to use online platforms to express their radical views, the proposed framework “seeks to ensure both that platforms are not continuously exploited by extremists and that free speech is protected, particularly for those who criticize extremist content and religion, or use satire, irony, or art to do so.”
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