Less than a week into his second term as prime minister, David Cameron is set to introduce a series of tough new laws redefining what it means to be an extremist in Britain.

“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. This Government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach,” states a briefing released by Cameron’s office.

Anyone expressing an ideology that the government views as “extreme” will be required to apply for permission to print or post to social media, and as part of the strategy, Cameron will fast-track powers to allow British police to vet the online conversations of those considered extremists. According to The Independent, the new package is expected to include:

• The introduction of banning orders for extremist organizations that use hate speech in public places, but whose activities fall short of proscription.

• New Extremism Disruption Orders to restrict people who seek to radicalize young people

• Powers to close premises where extremists seek to influence others

• Strengthening the powers of the Charity Commission to root out charities that channel funds toward extremism and terrorism

• Further immigration restrictions on extremists

• A strengthened role for Ofcom (the U.K.’s communications regulator) to take action against channels that broadcast extremist content.

Vetoed in March by former coalition partners the Liberal Democrats on the grounds that it violates free speech, the legislation package is expected to be pushed through by the new Conservative majority as part of the Queen’s Speech proposals at the end of May.

The proposed legislation has already drawn criticism from civil liberties groups that claim the ban on extremists could be adapted to cover anyone, including protesters the government disagrees with.

As Emma Norton, a legal officer at the civil liberties organization Liberty, noted in a statement, “Just a few months after the prime minister marched in Paris in defense of free speech [in the aftermath of the attacks on the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo] he proposes measures to help shut it down.”

“Driving those who despise diversity underground does nothing to challenge their beliefs,” she said, adding, “you don’t protect democracy by undermining the freedoms that sustain it.”

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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