Freedom House National Headquarters
1850 M Street NW, Suite 1100
Washington District of Columbia 20036
Dear Freedom House,
I am writing to call your attention to a serious threat to internet free speech coming from two quirky English laws.
The first law is Section127(1) of the Malicious Communications Act 2003: which gives a broad definition of what constitutes a “criminal communication.” Section 127 (1) criminalizes any "electronic communication which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature," The English courts have greatly expanded the law by ruling that "The test [of 'grossly offensive'] is whether a message is couched in terms liable to cause gross offense to whom it relates.” See: DPP v Collins  HL 40
The second law is a remnant of an old English law allowing private criminal prosecutions. Under this law, as an example, a landlord could act as the prosecutor and criminally charge an individual trespassing on the landlord's property. This law has been used by various public-interest groups in consumer issues. However a private criminal prosecution was brought under Section 127(1) against one Alison Chabloz for a song she sang and posted on YouTube.
The private criminal prosecution was brought last year by a group called Campaign Against Antisemitism. They did not like Ms Chabloz’s song since it made fun of the commercialization of the Auschwitz historical site along with other obnoxious rhymes. The CAA's extremist position on such matters is stated on their website as, "Campaign Against Antisemitism is a volunteer-led charity dedicated to exposing and countering antisemitism through education and zero-tolerance enforcement of the law." Their website is laced with articles on, "Labor party members and their Nazi beliefs" and a very broad list of items which they find "grossly offensive." While revisionist scholars are one target, Palestinian-rights groups are another.
However, the point is not the particular politics of the Chabloz case but the expansion of the criminal law against "grossly offensive" messages. Right now the Chabloz case is on hold as the Crown Prosecution Service considers taking over the case. Since most people find Chabloz irritating at best, no public-interest group has commented on the prosecution. Freedom House should consider reviewing the Chabloz case and offering its insights to our friends in England. A hearing on the matter is expected sometime in April.
Sincerely yours for Internet Freedom,
Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust
PO Box 20774
York PA 17402, USA
Email: [email protected]
Additional information about this document
|Title:||Letter to Freedom House National Headquarters|
|First posted on CODOH:||March 18, 2017, 12:15 p.m.|