UK terrorism chief calls for ‘national debate’ on criminalizing doubts about Covid-19 vaccine

19 Nov, 2020 17:19 / Updated 1 day agoGet short URL

© Reuters / Dado Ruvic The UK’s top counter-terrorism cop has suggested society stop allowing people to question the wisdom of a rapid Covid-19 vaccine rollout, regarding such skepticism to be life-threatening “misinformation.”

Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has pointedly questioned whether it is “the correct thing for society to allow” the sharing of “misinformation that could cost people’s lives” — demonizing all doubts about quickly developed Covid-19 vaccines whose potential long-term effects are not yet known and tying them to extremist radicalization efforts.

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.

Are these threats against those who criticise vaccines or those who refuse the vaccine ? https://t.co/9nIqpQaixY— Manon des Sources (@ds13_manon) November 19, 2020

Told you. Enemies of corporations (in this case Big Pharma) are soon to be enemies of the Statehttps://t.co/QICofuPZwu— Whitney Webb (@_whitneywebb) November 19, 2020

Some said that there were completely legitimate reasons to criticize the jab.

Im not anti vaccine. Im anti THiS vaccine. Experimental rushed and flawed, sold to us by the self same devious creeps and liars who stand to share trillions #WiSEUP— Ian Brown (@ianbrown) November 18, 2020

Even some in favor of taking the jab thought the decision to do so should be a “personal choice” rather than a mandate.

I will take the vaccine but believe it’s a personal choice and debate important.The establishment have other ideas:Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said that there should be a discussion about whether it is “the correct thing for society to allow” https://t.co/TIv9RYeBvi— Darren Selkus Ex PPC Epping Forest (@DarrenSelkus) November 19, 2020

Whatever happened to, ” my body, my choice”?— alfred setian (@spats402) November 19, 2020

And others argued Basu’s suggestion should horrify anyone who believed in free speech, “no matter what [their] beliefs.

I mean…literally the thought police. ! I don’t care if you want to marry vaccines…no matter what your beliefs this type of censorship should make your blood run cold! Without free thought, there is no freedom. Be careful what you support! https://t.co/zfhv37v9q4— Emma Kenny (@emmakennytv) November 18, 2020

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. Also on rt.com Football for vaccination? UK could go full Orwell with ‘QR code certificates’ as health authorities pick carrot over stick

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.