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The right to free speech cannot be conditional on what is being said. ‘Hate preachers’ may be bad people but unless they are making direct threats or incitements to violence - which we already have laws against - their ideas must be given the full protection of the law. That includes preaching intolerance. Anything less gives the state the power to pick and choose the ideas British citizens can express.
The details of these proposals are particularly concerning – people accused of hate preaching will be banned from speaking in public or using Twitter or Facebook.
These measures are almost certain to be abused as well – stop-and-search laws originally justified on anti-terror grounds are now mostly used to stop conventional crimes, and in 2008 it emerged that half of local councils had been using anti-terror laws to snoop on people who put their rubbish out on the wrong day.
We should hold these ideas up to scrutiny and challenge them in public debate, not push them into the shadows. With these measures Theresa May has crossed a line – if she pushes ahead, significant liberties will be lost.