Responding to terrorism requires social cohesion, not censorship

Katie Morris argues that governments across Europe regularly invoke the threat of terrorism to limit freedom of expression beyond what is permitted under international law. Journalists, activists and ordinary social media users are subject to arbitrary restrictions in relation to their online expression. There is little evidence of the success of such restrictions in preventing terrorist attacks, while their chilling effect on freedom of expression is widely documented. And yet terrorism remains a very real threat, both in Europe and globally. Terrorist attacks, of various ideological, political or religious motivations, have increased across Europe over the past decade. This has been accompanied by violent groups’, notably ISIS and violent far right movements’, increasingly professional and strategic exploitation of social media networks in order to recruit and radicalise. Radicalisation, particularly online, poses an evolving threat to societies, warranting some form of governmental response. This article explores why overly broad terrorist legislation is so problematic and explores alternative approaches to effectively tackle terrorist threats, while respecting the right to freedom of expression and other associated rights.

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