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UK proposes spending public funds to police MPs “disreputable” tweets

An obsession with policing speech.
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The UK Parliament is moving to introduce new rules that would investigate MPs for their Twitter posts, with a committee in charge explaining the plan as designed to prevent abusive speech and personal attacks rather than suppress freedom of expression of the country’s lawmakers.

The idea came from the House of Commons Committee on Standards that is reviewing the existing code of conduct applying to MPs, and that on Monday unveiled a report that proposes investigating MPs suspected of engaging in vaguely-worded “excessive” and “unreasonable” personal attacks on social media.

This speech would not be breaking any laws – but “can be regarded as disreputable” and therefore the updated code of conduct would sanction it.

Another proposal pushed by the committee seeks to introduce a new respect principle for MPs, which would require them to show they hold anti-discriminatory stances and behave accordingly, “through the promotion of anti-racism, inclusion and diversity.”

But not everyone is on board with introducing these changes to the code of conduct, with some MPs who have been asked to comment on the proposal calling it “woke,” “nonsense,” while one fears for the future of healthy open debates.

The proposal, one of a number of new measures the committee plans to introduce, was justified as the need to better enforce respect among MPs. Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone is quoted as saying that over the past year and a half, the committee received “hundreds” of complaints related to the way MPs use social media to communicate.

Stone said members of the public complained about posts by MPs they thought were abusive, disrespectful, exaggerated, or untruthful. But the commissioner was keen to reassure that MP’s views would not be policed where it concerned legitimacy and truthfulness – the new rules would instead be put in place to curb “abusive content” targeting individuals, said Stone.

MPs’ social media behavior somehow became a topic for the commission preparing the paper, despite the fact that the report on code of conduct review was spurred by the issue of MPs breaking lobbying rules and other serious breaches of parliamentary conduct, which are also addressed in the proposals, the British media are reporting.

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