Skeleton Key Laws

Not with a bang, with a whimper, the world moves from objective rule of law, to subjective rule by law.

There are more and more open-ended, multi-purpose “skeleton key” laws being passed in (supposedly) liberal democracies that can be used to punish, criminalise almost anyone at will.

Of particular concern are any laws that criminalise risk or (subjective) harms (such as “offence” or hurt feelings) – or worse risk of harm.

A good example is UK’s “online safety” bill (similar bills are being proposed in countries from Africa to Europe and all sorts of other places besides) that promises to jail people who cause others, “likely psychological harm” (which is, rather obviously, highly subjective to the eye of the beholder). According to The Times, the bill “will shift the focus on to the “harmful effect” of a message rather than if it contains “indecent” or “grossly offence” content, which is the present bias for assessing its criminality.”

As such, the bill is a skeleton key, that can be used to lock just about anyone you don’t like away, by claiming just about anything they said (or posted online years ago when the zeitgeist was a bit more tolerant of diversity of opinion) caused them “likely psychological harm”.

You cannot prove that my feeling were not hurt by your words.

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