Recently, we saw how police threatened and in a couple of cases, arrested, anti-monarchy protesters, following the death of the late queen Elizabeth II, The images were widely circulated on social media and the police eventually were forced to acknowledge that these protests were, in fact, lawful.
But what if the Online Safety Bill had been in force? Could the outcome have been different? What if the Bill could ban social media images of people protesting in the street?
There’s a curious provision in the Online Safety Bill that could have this effect. Here we explore why that might be. .
These anti-monarchy protesters were captured on smartphone videos, which were subsequently uploaded to social media platforms. Some merely shouted words of protest. Others were holding up hand-written banners, and in one case, a blank sheet of paper.
The police response was to move them on, verbally threaten them, and there were two arrests. In one case, a protester was handcuffed and put in a police van, on suspicion of an offence under Section 5 of the Public Order Act. He was later de-arrested, and described what happened to him to via social media posts. Another was told by a police officer that if he wrote ‘not my king’ on a piece of paper he was holding, he could be arrested. He took a video of the incident that he circulated on Twitter. Again, the Public Order Act was cited.
These accounts of the incidents were picked up by