People who watch terrorist propaganda online could face up to 15 years behind bars, Home Secretary Amber Rudd will announce, in a move designed to tighten laws tackling radicalization.
Rudd is expected to tell the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday that those found guilty of repeatedly viewing extremist material such as bomb-making instructions and far-right propaganda could now face lengthy jail terms.
The new law will extend an existing ban on downloading and storing the content on a PC to repeatedly watching it on sites like YouTube.
“I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions will face the full force of the law,” Rudd will say, according to the Independent.
“Changes will enable police and the security service to keep pace with modern patterns of internet use and intervene earlier in an investigation given the speed with which online radicalization is taking place.”
A defense of “reasonable excuse” would still be available to academics, journalists or others who may have a legitimate reason to view such material.
The move comes as Rudd ramps up her calls for internet giants such as Google and Facebook to do more to tackle the scourge of online extremism. On Monday she criticized firms such as WhatsApp for developing encrypted software that has held back the authorities from investigating suspicious activity.
She accused technology companies of “patronizing” and “sneering” at politicians who tried to regulate their industry.
The government has said end-to-end encryption has kept it from reading terrorists’ and criminals’ messages. Experts warn that the same technology also keeps private citizens from having their messages read by criminals and is used to secure banking technologies.
The tightening of the law around viewing terrorist material is part of a review of the government’s counterterrorism strategy following the increasing frequency of terrorist attacks in Britain this year.
Home Office analysis, seen by the Guardian, shows that since September 1, 2016, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) supporters have published almost 67,000 tweets in English, promoting links to their propaganda on a range of online platforms.
The figures also show that in the first eight months of this year, more than 44,000 links to IS propaganda were created and shared.