A Free Speech Union Manifesto

The Free Speech Union


1. Abolish Non-Crime Hate Incidents
Incidents of alleged ‘hate speech’ which have not reached the threshold for criminal investigation should not be recorded on the police’s national database. These ‘Non Crime Hate Incidents’ encourage the policing of thought and have a chilling effect on free speech.

2. Protect the Free Speech of Workers
Employees need greater protection so they can express their lawful political or social opinions in a private capacity without fear of being penalised by their employers.

3. Protect the Free Speech of Broadcasters
Remove the outdated ‘impartiality duty’ so there’s a level playing field between television, print media and internet broadcasters. Scrap Ofcom’s power to punish broadcasters for lawful content that falls foul of Ofcom’s ‘hate speech’ rules.

4. Restore Freedom of Speech in Communications
Amend the Communications Act 2003 which unjustifiably singles out electronic speech for policing and is abused by prosecutors to restrict freedom of expression.

5. Defend Freedom of Speech on the Internet
The UK Government’s proposed Online Harms Bill makes it too easy for regulators and activists to restrict content they decide is ‘harmful’, even if it’s perfectly lawful. Social media companies should be under no obligation to remove lawful content and there should be no penalties for refusing to do so. Users who have content removed by social media companies should have a right of appeal, with the companies being obliged to restore it if it isn’t unlawful.

6. No beliefs should be immune from criticism
The UK Government should not create any more ‘protected characteristics’ or make it unlawful to criticise particular beliefs or points of view.

7. End perception-based policing
Proof of ‘hate crime’ needs to be rigorous and objective, otherwise police time is wasted investigating vexatious complaints and freedom of speech is chilled.

8. Amend the Equality Act 2010 so it cannot be used to stifle free speech
Current wording encourages vexatious, perception-based accusations of ‘harassment’ and the imposition of divisive speech codes in the public and private sectors. These undermine democracy and erode equality before the law. 

9. Defend freedom of speech within professional bodies
Legal protections should be put in place to prevent professional bodies like the Bar council and the General Teaching council from penalising their members for exercising their lawful right to free speech in a private capacity.

10. Teach children about freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the most important value of any democracy. Promoting this should be made an active duty in the Department for Education’s 2014 guidance on promoting British values in schools.

Full Briefing