Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer today called for a nationwide debate on the introduction of new laws to punish people who spread anti-vaccination conspiracy theories.
Met Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said that there should be a discussion about whether it is “the correct thing for society to allow” people to spread “misinformation that could cost people’s lives” as he responded to concern that false claims online could undermine the take up of Covid-19 vaccines.
Mr Basu stopped short of endorsing the idea of a new law but his intervention will strengthen pressure on ministers to act against conspiracy theorists making false claims about the vaccines.
“There is a debate for society to have about free speech and responsibility and people who are spreading misinformation that could cost people’s lives… whether that is the correct thing for this society to allow to happen,” said Mr Basu.
Officials said that one reason for Mr Basu’s concern was that Islamist and far-Right groups were using false claims about coronavirus to radicalise followers.