There are increasing fears that freedom of speech is in jeopardy in the UK as the regulatory body for media broadcasts in Britain, Ofcom, has broadened its code for hate speech.
Previously, Ofcom required that broadcasts refrained from airing ‘incitement to hatred’ based on sex, race, religion, or nationality.
The regulator’s new code — which came into place at 11 pm on New Years’ Eve — now bars programs from “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, social origin, gender, sex, gender reassignment, nationality, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, color, genetic features, language, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth or age.”
In response to the move, the former leader of the Conservative Party, Sir Iain Duncan Smith told the Daily Mail: “We are drifting into a totalitarian ‘woke’ state where nothing can ever be said for fear that somebody will be offended. It’s madness, and it’s driven by a small minority. Most people don’t care.”
In a statement on social media, the Reclaim Party, a new political concept founded by British actor Laurence Fox and which is still going through the process of being recognized as an official party, said: “We are sleepwalking into a totalitarian state where the right to take offense trumps the right to free speech.”
Ofcom denied that the updated regulations would stifle freedom of speech, claiming that the new speech codes would not prevent anyone from appearing on television or radio “because their views or actions have the potential to cause offense”.
The broadcast regulator said that it would be the responsibility of broadcasters to challenge the so-called hateful opinions of their guests.
Ofcom received some 3,581 complaints from the public of supposed racial discrimination on British airwaves in 2019, up from 2,680 in 2018. The regulator also received 429 complaints of gender discrimination, compared to 310 in the previous year.
The United Kingdom — which does not have first amendment style free speech protections like the United States — has also seen police embark on a campaign of logging thousands of so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ in criminal databases.
The hate “offenses” will present on criminal background checks, despite the person not having committed a real crime. ✪