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© Twitter / @ukhomeoffice
A screenshot from a Home Office advertisement, released February 17, 2021
A new Home Office advert warning Brits that "meeting up is against the law" has been savaged online. The ad, a throwback to the anti-piracy ads of the 2000s, has been called "dystopian."

Readers of a certain age probably remember the "You wouldn't steal a car" anti-piracy ads. Appearing before DVDs as unskippable clips, the ads featured criminals committing various street crimes, and text warning viewers that "downloading pirated films is stealing."

The UK Home Office has now updated the format for 2021. An ad released by the office on Wednesday warns the public to avoid raves, parties, illegal pubs and even baby showers, because "meeting up is against the law." Footage of police raids on illegal gatherings accompanies the warnings, with a thumping drum 'n' bass soundtrack and amphetamine-jittering text completing the early-2000s aesthetic.

The ad inspired laughter and terror in equal measure, and was trashed online. Conservative pundit Raheem Kassam called it the stuff of "dystopian nightmares," while Guardian writer Peter Walker said it looked like it had been "edited by someone on crystal meth."



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Despite the video's claims, meeting up is not against the law in Britain, but it is difficult. Two people can meet outdoors away from their homes, but 'support groups' of up to 15 people can meet in public spaces. Groups of bereaved people, new parents, people with illnesses and LGBT people all count as 'support groups.' Gatherings like weddings, funerals and religious services are still permitted, albeit with severe restrictions on attendance numbers.

For the majority of the population, however, normal social life is on hold since the government introduced the latest nationwide lockdown last month.

The Home Office's shocker ad is not the first attempt by the government to scare its citizenry into compliance. A multi-media campaign last month urged Brits to "act like you've got it" and stay at home, regardless of how healthy they felt. The Home Office had to pull another ad released in January, which stated that "someone jogging, walking their dog or working out in the park is highly likely to have Covid-19."

The anti-piracy ads of the 2000s did little to stop illegal downloading, and if £10,000 fines haven't stopped British teenagers from holding illegal parties, the latest ad is unlikely to succeed either, no matter how "dystopian" a picture it paints.