The UK’s top counter-terrorism officer has called for a nationwide debate on the introduction of new laws to punish people who spread anti-vaccination ‘conspiracy therories’
Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said that there should be a discussion about whether it is “the correct thing for society to allow” people to spread “misinformation that could cost people’s lives” as he responded to concern that false online claims could undermine the take up of coronavirus vaccinations.
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He has effectively tried to demonize all doubts about the quickly developed vaccine whose potential long-term effects are not yet known
RT reports: While he didn’t go so far as to call for a law to be passed banning such content, his suggestion of a “national debate” will presumably light a fire under ministers already mulling such legislation.
Basu also expressed worries about a “sharp increase in extremist material online in the last few years” during Wednesday’s press conference, warning of a “new and worrying trend in the UK” of young people being radicalized. Officials told UK media that Islamic extremists and far-right groups were using “false claims about coronavirus” to radicalize their followers.
Social media users already wary of the rush to roll out the vaccine were disturbed by the attendant rush to criminalize criticism of it.
Some said that there were completely legitimate reasons to criticize the jab.
Even some in favor of taking the jab thought the decision to do so should be a “personal choice” rather than a mandate
And others argued Basu’s suggestion should horrify anyone who believed in free speech, “no matter what [their] beliefs.”
“Am I alone in finding this more worrying than the virus itself?” one user asked.
The counter-terrorism chief’s concerns have added to the growing chorus of government entities calling for the blanket censorship – or even criminalization – of vaccine scepticism. The Labour Party earlier this week demanded the government adopt emergency legislation to impose civil and criminal penalties on social media platforms that don’t immediately remove posts that question the safety of the jab and other “false” materials.
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth demanded government “deal with some of the dangerous nonsense, nonsensical anti-vax stuff that we’ve seen spreading on social media, which erodes trust in the vaccine” even though no vaccine has yet passed review by UK health authorities and speculation from either “side” of the debate is fully hypothetical.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out making vaccination mandatory, and ministers are reportedly considering issuing QR codes to people who receive the jab that will allow them to attend sports, theatre, and other events.
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