People who view terrorist content online face up to 15 years in prison

Extremists who repeatedly view terrorist content online face up to 15 years in jail under plans being unveiled by the Home Secretary.

Amber Rudd will tell conference that counter-terrorism laws will be updated to keep pace with online activities.

The move will strengthen the existing offence of possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist so it does not only apply to downloaded or stored information.

Academics, journalists and other professionals would have a "reasonable excuse" defence for legitimate work.

Someone presses a key on a laptop
Academics undertaking research could have a "reasonable excuse" (Dominic Lipinki/PA)

The maximum penalty will also apply to terrorists who publish information about members of the armed forces, police and intelligence services to fuel attacks.

Home Office analysis found that over the last 12 months, Islamic State supporters have published almost 67,000 tweets in English promoting its propaganda.

Ms Rudd said: "I want to make sure those who view despicable terrorist content online including jihadi websites, far right propaganda and bomb making instructions face the full force of the law.

"There is currently a gap in the law around material which is viewed or streamed from the internet without being permanently downloaded.

A user touches the screen of a laptop
The maximum penalty could be 15 years in prison (Yui Mok)

"This is an increasingly common means by which material is accessed online for criminal purposes, and is a particularly prevalent means of viewing extremist material such as videos and web pages.

"Changes will enable police and the security service to keep pace with modern patterns of internet use and intervene earlier in an investigation given the speed with which online radicalisation is taking place.

"It is also right that the cowardly targeting of the men and women who serve our country is punished in the severest terms.

"We are continuing to urgently press the internet companies to do more to stop this kind of vile material being available on their platforms in the first place."

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