Labour MP Yvette Cooper has called on the British public to start a debate about internet safety. Recl@im The Internet is Cooper’s catchy twist on the Reclaim The Night marches of the Seventies and Eighties, in which women called for streets to be made more safe at night. The Recl@im campaign’s homepage states: ‘The internet is our new streets and everyone should be able to feel safe and speak out online.’
Cooper’s campaign has received predictable support from fans of internet censorship, including professional internet-troll hunters and fellow Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. Phillips even boasted that she had received 600 rape threats after announcing her involvement with Recl@im.
Cooper’s idea is nothing new – there have been many initiatives recently to raise awareness about women’s safety on the internet, from last year’s UN report, Cyber Violence Against Women and Girls, to Jeremy Corbyn’s Working With Women, which promised to end everyday sexism. Internet censorship in the name of women’s safety is a hackneyed idea.
But for all its posturing about starting up a debate, Recl@im The Internet is the most insidiously censorious attack on internet freedom to date. While other campaigns have openly called for the need to protect women from certain words – as well as slut-shaming and body-shaming, etc – this latest attempt to neutralise the internet is pretending to protect free speech.
‘It’s possible both to champion freedom of speech and argue for greater responsibility from everyone’, the campaign claims. But, as spiked has long argued, if free speech is to be genuinely free, it must be absolute, with no ifs or buts. If it’s not absolute, then it’s not free speech; it’s privileged speech. What Recl@im is really saying is, ‘Yes, free speech for us, but not for people we don’t like’. In other words, in the interest of protecting free speech, we must limit it. This campaign couldn’t be more Orwellian if it tried.