published Tue Jun 13 2023
The recent arrests of Republic's members and volunteers from Night Stars demonstrate the danger of rushing through ill-defined legislation. Under the new Public Order Act 2023, possessing everyday objects could be considered an offense, making it easier for the police to close down protests and suppress dissent. This builds on the draconian powers given to the police under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.
The Online Safety Bill is another example of broad and ill-defined legislation that threatens our privacy, security and freedom of expression online. The bill's provisions could compel social media companies to remove illegal content before it's even posted, using upload filters that can potentially remove lawful content. This could also impact our right to assembly in the UK, as photographs and videos of protests could be identified as an offense under Section 5 of the Public Order Act and removed from online platforms.
The UK government's recent assault on protest rights and the proposed adoption of surveillance powers similar to those used in China are alarming. WhatsApp, Signal, and Element have already stated they will withdraw their services rather than comply with the government's demands to weaken their end-to-end encryption. We need to act now to prevent a further attack on our rights.