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Police told terror ads too terrifying offensive

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Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Association of Chief Police Officers has been told not to re-broadcast an anti-terror advert it ran on TalkSPORT radio.

The advert urged people to call the "Anti-Terrorist Hotline" to report suspicious behaviour such as anyone paying with cash "because he doesn't have a bank card", or keeping his curtains closed "because his house is on a bus route".

The Metropolitan Police Service responded to the Advertising Standards Authority on behalf of ACPO. It claimed the behaviours described in the advert were "based on trends identified by police and had been amongst evidence given in court at recent terrorism trials".

The ASA noted that the behaviour described could also apply to the behaviour of a number of law-abiding citizens and that listeners who identified with such behaviour could be offended by the suggestion that their behaviour was suspicious.

10 people complained to the ASA that the ad was encouraging people to report law-abiding citizens and said it was offensive. 16 believed the ad could encourage people to harass or victimise their neighbours and nine complained it made an undue appeal to fear.

The ASA asked ACPO not to repeat the advert in its present form.

The ad in full:

The following message is brought to you by TalkSPORT and the Anti-Terrorist Hotline. The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to himself. He pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route. This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions. We all have a role to play in combating terrorism. If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential, Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 XXXXXX. If you suspect it, report it.

The full adjudication can be read here. ®

*Update: Acpo got in touch to point out, quite correctly, that the ASA ruled the ad was found likely to cause serious offense, but did not "make an undue appeal to fear". Headline adjusted accordingly.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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