Britain’s latest crackdown on free speech should make us grateful for the First Amendment

We here in America take the First Amendment for granted. We switch on the television, we post memes online, we listen to a talk radio host rail against the federal government without ever acknowledging the value of such swashbuckling openness. We can say pretty much anything we want, so long as we don’t put others in direct danger. Attempts to circumscribe this liberty, most famously Oliver Wendell Holmes’ lunkheaded and abused “fire in a crowded theater” ruling that tackled the looming danger posed by Jewish socialists quietly distributing anti-war pamphlets, have ultimately been overturned.

Most other nations don’t have this ironclad protection against censorship. Among them is Great Britain. Charles C.W. Cooke reports on the latest anti-free expression outrage in the Mother Country:

FKThe entire Bill of Rights, insisted on by the anti-federalists as a defense against the constitution, is what makes us exceptional.

Star of BBC reality TV show The Call Centre faces JAIL after posting ‘sick’ Facebook message that ‘anyone born with Down’s Syndrome should be put down’

FK – There are many types of walking ‘vegetables.’ We let too many of them vote. We are in the midst of the zombie apocalypse.

But this is evil:


Under the Malicious Communications Act any ‘indecent or grossly offensive’ message that causes ‘distress or anxiety’ can lead to prosecution.

The maximum punishment is six months in prison and a £5,000 fine. The 1988 law came into force before the widespread use of the internet, e-mail and social networking.

It has since been updated on at least two occasions as the use of social media has exploded.

The police will investigate each case and hand a file to the Crown Prosecution Service who will decide if there is enough evidence to bring charges.

Ministry of Justice figures show 694 individuals were guilty of offences under this Act last year – the highest number for at least a decade and more than 10 times higher than the 64 convictions recorded in 2004.

Last year the Government announced measures to increase the maximum sentence for trolls who are convicted under the Malicious Communications Act from six months to two years.