Anyone who views terrorist propaganda once online can be jailed for up to 15 years under new laws that have sparked human rights concerns.
MPs had urged the government to scrap plans to criminalise viewing “information useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”, which goes further than much-used laws that made physically collecting, downloading or disseminating the material illegal.
A United Nations inspector accused the government of straying towards “thought crime” with the proposal, which originally stated that people would have to access propaganda “on three or more different occasions” to commit a terror offence.
But the benchmark was removed from the draft law, meaning a single click is now illegal.
Journalists, academic researchers or people who had “no reason to believe” they were accessing terrorist propaganda are exempt.
Security officials have told The Independent that discretion will be exercised and the law will help prosecute extremists in cases where other offences cannot be proven, or to prevent radicalisation.
A report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights said the offence “is a breach of the right to receive information and risks criminalising legitimate research and curiosity”.
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