There's A Reasonable Debate To Be Had About Showing The James Foley Beheading Video, But Claiming Its Illegal To Watch Is Ridiculous
from the name-the-law dept
By now you’ve probably heard of the barbaric and tragic beheading of journalist James Foley by the extremist group ISIS. There’s an ongoing debate happening as many people sought to have the video (and screenshots) removed from the internet. Twitter and YouTube are actively removing such things, and even shutting down some accounts of people who are sharing those links. Mathew Ingram has a fantastic discussion about whether or not it’s the right thing for these companies to be removing those images and videos, and our own Tim Geigner has been weighing whether or not to write about the subject.
However, I wanted to do a quick post about this ridiculous claim from the Metropolitan police in London that it’s a criminal act merely to view the video. I have no interest in seeing the video, but I think it’s crazy that someone deciding they do want to see the video might face criminal charges over it.
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.
However, when reporters from Buzzfeed asked the UK government to elaborate, no one will say what law would actually be broken:
The Metropolitan police are unable to currently name the law that citizens could be arrested under for watching the video that depicts the beheading of photojournalist James Wright Foley, despite earlier releasing a statement that said any British nationals watching the video could be committing a criminal offence.
They did get a police spokesperson to say that they’re not intending to pursue people for merely watching the video, but that “viewing it could be used as evidence as part of a wider investigation.” That seems fairly questionable in many ways, even as we’re used to UK officials stretching anti-terrorism laws in dangerous ways.