Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Scotland Yard, The ISIS Video, and Terrorism

The UK's Metropolitan Police is warning individuals and social media users that sharing or even viewing the video of reporter James Foley's brutal execution could be grounds for prosecution under the UK's terrorism statute. However, while disseminating the video might be grounds for prosecution under the Terrorism Act of 2006, David Allen Green points out in a blog post that it's not so clear why viewing the video is grounds for prosecution. 

Below is the text defining "encouragement of terrorism."

(1)This section applies to a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to them to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism or Convention offences.

(2)A person commits an offence if—

(a)he publishes a statement to which this section applies or causes another to publish such a statement; and

(b)at the time he publishes it or causes it to be published, he—

(i)intends members of the public to be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism or Convention offences; or

(ii)is reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by the statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences.

Note that the text refers to statements that an individual publishes or causes to be published. It doesn't discuss viewing or reading (a text, for example).

Here is the text defining "dissemination of terrorist publications."

(1)A person commits an offence if he engages in conduct falling within subsection (2) and, at the time he does so—

(a)he intends an effect of his conduct to be a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducement to the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism;

(b)he intends an effect of his conduct to be the provision of assistance in the commission or preparation of such acts; or

(c)he is reckless as to whether his conduct has an effect mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b).

(2)For the purposes of this section a person engages in conduct falling within this subsection if he—

(a)distributes or circulates a terrorist publication;

(b)gives, sells or lends such a publication;

(c)offers such a publication for sale or loan;

(d)provides a service to others that enables them to obtain, read, listen to or look at such a publication, or to acquire it by means of a gift, sale or loan;

(e)transmits the contents of such a publication electronically; or

(f)has such a publication in his possession with a view to its becoming the subject of conduct falling within any of paragraphs (a) to (e).

 Again, nothing about "viewing" the material, only about distributing, circulating or making available the material, for profit or for free.

Meanwile, YouTube and Twitter are busy removing uploads of the video. 

More here from the Guardian. 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/media_law_prof_blog/2014/08/the-uks-metropolitan-police-is-warning-individuals-and-social-media-users-that-sharing-or-even-viewing-video-of-reporter-jame.html

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