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Anti-terror hotline ad banned in Britain

A radio advert encouraging people to observe neighbours for signs of “suspicious” behaviour has been pulled for causing serious offence.

AN ANTI-TERRORISM radio advert has been banned in Britain following complaints that it would lead to the harassment and victimisation of innocent people.

The London Metropolitan Police released the advert, which gave examples of kinds of “suspicious” behaviour and encouraged people to report neighbours that may display them. The ad stated:

“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.”

The campaign was released by the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), which has since removed the advert following 18 complaints from listeners.

The British advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that the behaviours described could be displayed by a law-abiding citizens and the adverts had the potential to cause “serious offence”.

The watchdog said in its ruling, that despite the advert conveying its message in “a measured and reasonable tone and was not, therefore, sensationalist, it still had fundamental problems:

“We considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive. We are also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of the community for acting in the way described.”

Acpo released a statement saying:

“The aim of the series of adverts was to alert the public to a range of behaviours that individually could mean nothing but taken together may be construed as suspicious and might be an indication of terrorist activity. This advert was based on trends identified by police and specific circumstances which had been amongst evidence given in court at terrorism trials.”

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The advert is just one of a series of ant-terror radio advertisements, and will be the only one removed from the airways.

A similar ad in the same series states:

“The man two desks down from you at work looks at online aerial photos, because he’s thinking of moving house. He rents three lockups, full of his mother’s things he just can’t throw out. He paid for a flight with cash, but that’s because he’s a spontaneous kind of guy. This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions…”

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