The Home Secretary is expected to face fierce opposition from popular social network outfits today when she will ask them to consider restricting access to individuals in the aftermath of unrest in England earlier this month. Theresa May is meeting with wonks from Blackberry, Facebook and Twitter, following evidence that, …
Is it a job requirement for the Home Secretary to not understand technology?
Based on recent postholders it certainly feckin' seems that way.
I assume that May is going to be entirely internally consistent in dealing with this, and demand that all telephony companies & ISPs cut off any service in such regions, prior to bringing in new legislation whereby access to communications technology of any sort requires a CRB check. Can't have those nasty crims communicating, after all...
I wouldn't have thought that the list of job requirements for Home Secretary includes 'Must not understand technology', just as I also suspect it also doesn't include 'Must understand technology'. Who knows. She could after all ask either advisors or indeed the companies involved.
In my opinion, based on my understanding of the technology, what she probably should look for is some agreement that, in the event of a repeat of the recent mass criminality, that phone masts in the area should be switched to emergency calls only.
Further restricting access to the Internet for those convicted would almost certainly have to be some sort of banning order. Possibly Twitter, Facebook and so on could help out with enforcement of such orders.
The thing about an awful lot of modern comms tech is that it's built around the idea of avoiding single points of failure/loss of data throughput.
I've no doubt that criminally minded types were using their mobile phones to co-ordinate efforts during the riots - as they probably do even when there's *not* rioting going on. They probably also used mobile web access, mobile email access, Blackberry messaging, texting, and god knows what else. I read some reports claiming that some gangs were co-ordinating their efforts through young lads on bikes acting as messengers.
BT still have payphones in some areas, though they're getting rarer. Plenty of coffeeshops (and other businesses) offer free wireless, and some of it's still open-access. So effectively shutting down the kind of communication access that's being discussed here is not as simple as pushing some digital equivalent of a Big Red Button for certain services.
At issue is the idea that the rioting was aided significantly by this communications tech - but what we've seen doesn't really confirm or deny that. There's no real evidence to suggest that *without* access to said tech, those rioting wouldn't just have smashed things up anyway (but in a less organised manner).
This smacks a bit too much of a knee-jerk "LOOK, WE'RE DOING SOMETHING" response, and not enough like a "We've considered the circumstances and formed a rational response in the event of recurrence" response. I'm always unnerved by this sort of rush to action because it suggests that we might get yet more crap, poorly-worded legislation that can then be misused by prosecutors.
Reality or fiction......
Essentially, a sound idea. When crim's are caught and punished, you take away their tools of crime and their civil liberties. This has been the basis of our Criminal Justice system for , ooooh, ages.
The problem is, stopping somebody from using, say Twitter, is neigh on impossible. Get a cheapie 'phone from Three and hey presto, you're back on line.
But, what does the Gov' do ? Block Twitter for all, like they do in some draconian middle eastern countries ? No, of course not. Let people "just get away with it?" Nope.
No, I do not know either, but clearly the Gov' has to do something. But like Ms May, I have no clue either what that "something" is......
Umm, how about instead of "clearly the Gov' has to do something", just not touching it at all. It's fine.
As the mist of thinly sprayed bullshit begins to clear it seems that the notion that it was all the fault of Twitter/Facebook etc. was purely knee-jerk reactions from the start.
The following decisions to emulate other totalitarian regimes and go for the "that'll teach them a lesson" approach now also appears to be vastly overreacting and led by the righteous right.
'Something has to be done' is just crap and shows a lack of understanding how the 'authorities' have, once again, been led by the nose. The biggest Law'n'Order shouters seem to have been those wonderful defenders of truth and enlightenment the EDL - ably supported by the Daily Star and that champion for honesty and decency Richard Desmond with the rest of the red-top and middle-England media almost fighting amongst themselves to be proved to be the one true upholder of British values.
As the vast proportion of traffic on the networks is now show not to be inciting violence or looting would you still say that they need controlling? In which case the mobile networks need to be shut down to prevent organised fights between football gangs or anytime there is a demonstration.
It's just a cynical move by the government to yoke its citizens
Funny how they criticised the Egyptian government for switching off communications systems, but it's all right for us...
And the next step...
So, presumably if the little scumbag looters start spraying graffiti on walls that say 'loot john lewis now!' then the government answer is to demolish all walls in London so they can't be used as a means of communication?
What if someone stands on a hill and and shouts something in a loud voice telling people to do something the Government doesn't agree with? Perhaps hills will be banned, but it would solve a lot of problems if voices were taken out of the picture too...
There is a way to deny them access
When criminals have been identified as such by the court they should be put in prison and have things such as Internet kept away from them. If people are not in prison then short of turning the outside world into a prison there is nothing that can be done.
One giant prison?
Damn! You've spotted what the government's long-term strategy is! (And sadly the last government had the same strategy - and almost certainly the next one will too.)
Symptoms, symptoms everywhere!
This is just more of the same stuff that got us anti-child porn censorship. It's going after symptoms, even when it's quite clear that they're very far from the real cause. And the latter gets nothing constructive done about it.
So it's disenfranchisement and moral turpitude now? So let's do something about teh twittarz!
Er, no. And if I were in any position to do so, I'd kick out any politician who utters anything of the sort. We do not need more of the "we must do something! this is something! we must do this!" mindset, we have quite enough of that already. But wishing for statesmanship is the same as wishing for politicians with clue. That just isn't going to happen.
The laws here mean that...
...we have the freedom to do whatever the hell we want, provided that we do not break the laws of the land. We are all, personally and individually, responsible for our own actions, and it is these that may or may not lead us to face a Court if we fudge up (so to speak).
The upshot is that in this case, the government should leave the social networks well alone - these companies did nothing illegal, after all, merely provided, as they currently do for millions of innocent people, an avenue to express their right to free speech. It would be thoroughly wrong of the government to penalise these innocents for the wrong-doings of a mere handful of complete muppits.
It is also worth remembering that hose who fudged up will, or at least may, be held to account in a court, where the onus is on the prosecuring authority to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendent has crossed the line, and needs his or her wrists slapped with a very soft and flexible rubber ruler.
Short version: Teacher, leave those kids alone!
right to free speech?
What makes you think there's a right to free speech? England is not yet the 51st state.
If social networking is so good for organising groups of people, rather than shut it down perhaps the Police should start using that instead of their current Command and Control systems. If it works for the unruly massed ranks of chavs, surly using the subversive twitter feeds the police would have no problems policing the flashmob!
What I think is going to happen...
Since actually blocking the services would be counter productive but a lot of not very bright but very grumpy people want to see "something done" ("something" not specified of course) I predict a series of high level meetings until everyone forgets about it. If they really decide to kick into the long grass they might form a working party.
My favourite story this week was on Inspector Gadget. Apparently six angry young gentlemen who used to visit the police during diversity training to tell them how beastly they were stopping and searching "youths" are no longer available. Four are on remand, one's on bail and the last one has put his prices up.
Shut down Twitter/Facebook?
Now, that's an attractive proposition.
Twitter Database Study
>> That's a claim which has already been shot down by an initial study of a database .. that apparently demonstrates Twitter at least had many more reactionary posts to the unrest than messages calling on people to go out and loot shops. <<
Er, I don't buy that one. They think that potential looters would weigh up whether or not to loot based on some kind of vote count?
I don't think so.
On the same basis, the affected cities had many more people sitting at home, watching the news and tutting about the riots than people actually rioting. So if "many more reactionary posts" shoots down the idea that Twitter "enabled criminals to communicate" then the many more people sitting at home shoots down the idea that the riots happened in the first place.
It's not a question of how many people used the medium for good or bad - it's whether *any* used it for bad.
Not that I'm criticising Twitter, of course, for the reasons others have pointed out. It's that the "statistic" and conclusion drawn from it beggars belief.
As I've said before
Conspiracy is already an offence. The medium is not to blame.
Don't just call the heads of...
Facebook, Twitter, Blackberry etc.
Get the likes of Nike, Adidas, etc in front of the Home Sec as well.
Their products were used during the riots by these little scallywags as well... Probably more efeectively than Social Media
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