Out-Law News 1 min. read

Police unit formed to take down websites suspected of breaking terror laws

A police unit has been created to force the take-down of web pages which break the UK's terrorism laws. The Government has set up a web page through which the public can tell the police about pages that they think are illegal.

The Terrorism Act of 2006 gave police the power to demand that websites or material on websites be removed from the internet if they shared information that would be useful to terrorists or glorified acts of terrorism.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said that it had created a new unit to act on reports from the public and to look for material that might break the Terrorism Act. The team is part of its Prevent Delivery Unit which deals with counter-terrorism.

"This new unit will investigate referrals from the public, proactively seek out illegal material on websites and work closely with industry to make it harder for terrorists to exploit the internet," said Prevent's national co-ordinator, assistant chief constable John Wright.

"Used in the right way the internet is an extremely positive communications tool," said Wright. "However it also means that terrorists and violent extremists can, and do, use it to influence and train would-be terrorists, and to plan their operations."

The Government has created a page within its Direct.gov portal where individuals can report material that they think is illegal. Illegal hate content, such as messages calling for racial or religious violence, can also be reported via the portal. It said that submissions from that page would be directed straight to the new police team.

"We want to protect people who may be vulnerable to violent extremist content and will seek to remove any unlawful material," said security minister Lord West. "This is also about empowering individuals to tell them how they can make a civic challenge against material that they find offensive, even if it is not illegal."

"The internet is not a lawless forum and should reflect the legal and accepted boundaries of society," said West.

The Terrorism Act allows police to request that any material they think is illegal is removed or changed within two working days.

If someone refuses that request that is not an offence in itself but it does mean that they will be unable to plead a defence of 'non-endorsement' if they are charged with encouraging terrorist acts or distributing terrorist publications, the Home Office said.

Any information that is intended to be useful to terrorists is illegal, including: bomb-making instructions; guides to making poisons; instructions on how to make weapons; [and]
guides to targets," said the guidance on Direct.gov's reporting page.

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