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back to article 'New laws not needed' to block / censor Twitter et al

Comment One of the unanswered questions arising from the August riots is whether the government needs new powers to block the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media which were used to organise the disturbances. Prime Minister David Cameron suggested, in the immediate aftermath of the rioting, that blocking the use of …

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Intell

The cops quickly realised that twitter etc was a source of intell e.g. "lets go up Catford" and so they could get there in advance to quell the riot, erm I mean, watch the riot.

Of course any serious rioter would place dozens of fake messages, but of course I wouldn't think of that.

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Windows

The writer of the article has a point.

Particularly in the "Are you safe?" argument.

However, we can survive without this communication tech. (It's only 20 years old) and we did OK before it's inception.

I would've thought, in an age of responsiblity - stifling a smirk - that the Gummint would just give the nod to the operators, and they'd down the thing voluntarily for a day or so.

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Anonymous Coward

telll

Tell that to the person trapped in a car crash without a land line who desperatly trying to contact emergency services but can't because the cell network's down.

Also the net effect to date of shutting down networks is to push people onto the street to find out what's going on. Also I expect the news coverage was the most helpful thing in directing looters attentions, oo look all the police are over there, the news say there arn't enough of them and they're just watching, maybe we should go over here and loot Game.

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Trollface

eh?

"I would've thought, in an age of responsiblity - stifling a smirk - that the Gummint would just give the nod to the operators, and they'd down the thing voluntarily for a day or so."

And punish everyone for the actions of a minority?

Srlsy?

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I believe

there is an emergency priority system on the cell and telephone services, which would exclude the plebiscite but allow distress calls through.

As for using a cell phone while trapped, could be dodgy if there are petrol fumes around.

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Anonymous Coward

well

"As for using a cell phone while trapped, could be dodgy if there are petrol fumes around."

You're more at risk from the static produced by a pair of tights than a mobile phone

As to what stays up and what goes down, who can tell.

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Thumb Up

titular advisory

Also cellphones were an instrumentation problem, not a fire problem. For the same reason that using them on planes was frowned upon.

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Windows

"Tell that to the person trapped in a car crash without a land line"

Nope. dial 911, 112, or 999 - doesn't matter, and you get through.

Oh, if they're trapped in a car crash, they had access to a landline? Maybe they got lucky and an old telephone box landed on them.

Dullard.

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Childcatcher

A nod to the operators

Just like what happened in Egypt/Libya et al eh?

It's funny how the definition of "riot" and "overthrowing a despotic government" can change depending whose side you are on, eh?

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Black Helicopters

It worked for Colonel Gaddafi

He shut off cell towers before moving into the cities so people couldn't organise their defence and lets not forget the great firewall of china. Now obviously our politicians are nowhere near as bad as that, they just do the same things sometimes. Kinda like Dick Cheney - a good guy who does bad things but in the name of truth, justice and the American way.

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Anonymous Coward

If there was any doubt that was sarcasm.

"Dick Cheney - a good guy who does bad things" removed it.

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Boffin

Simple solution

Just bring back the Riot Act 1714

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riot_Act

It was only repealed in 1967

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Repeal date?

Wiki says 1973; you say 1967 - which is it?!

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@ JakeyC

"...and remained on the statute books until 1967, when it was abolished by the Criminal Law Act 1967." in first paragraph.

I see further down it has 1973 as repeal date.

Not sure of the difference between abolished/repealed so <shrug>

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1967 in England and Wales, 1973 elsewhere in the UK

I believe the confusion may be that it was repealed earlier in England and Wales than the rest of the UK. According to the 1967 Criminal Law Act it was repealed as of the passing of that act; however the section containing the repeals language did not appear to apply to Scotland or NI.

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1967/58/schedule/3

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Joke

Riot Gear

So next time they riot they'll loot a bunch of Sat phones to keep in touch?

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Z 1
Big Brother

Hmmm

"political masters"? I'd prefer the term incompetent idiots.

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Holmes

Also add

Corrupt, thieving and morally and ethically bankrupt as well.

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Big Brother

All posturing anyway

If the issue really is the talked-up place of twitter and facebook as a means of communication for purposes any government finds unsound, then that's one thing, but if the implications are ANY form of communication then that's another. However, the point of the article, that the laws already exist for "the authorities" to be able to do anything they like, is well made and should continue to be a source of concern to us, especially those powers gifted to chief constables, as one-the-make a bunch as anyone else crazed with power, but with less scrutiny.

As an innocent bystander who nevertheless felt real fear when emergency powers were assumed in a country in which I lived some years ago, there is a need for the population to be very careful of using these riots to gift yet more unverified control to our overlords.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: All posturing anyway

> there is a need for the population to be very careful of using these riots to gift

> yet more unverified control to our overlords.

The Romans had it right.

In times of emergency, they would choose a Dictator. The Dictator would be in place for 6 months (unless he resigned earlier than that), and would have absolute power during that time. No arguments.

At the end of the 6-month period, the Dictator would be removed from office and tried for every single thing he had done in that time.

It was true that "with great power, comes great responsibility"...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Premises for RIPA

If "premises" had to be supplied, surely the trick would be to name the communications centre the messages were passing through?

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Sir

I may be wrong, but a premise can also be a containing statement, such as..

"anyone using Twitter after 8pm"

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Freedom of Speech?

To my thinking in politics there are probably no real universal truths. Whilst freedom of speech is generally accepted as a fine principle, and as such should be a human right. I can certainly see instances where temporarily suspending this particular right upholds other more fundamental human rights.

In looking at the recent spate of lawlessness and looting one of the things that came to mind was a comment made during the original fuel protests in 2001. The comment being that if the miners had mobile phones during the strikes of the 1980, the police and ultimately the government wouldn’t have been able to win. The advantage to the police then being communications that allowed them, even being numerically disadvantaged, to win each battle by effective deployment of resources.

This point was illustrated during the first few riots in that the police lost control of the streets. The use of twitter, text messages, and BBM gave the rioters the same edge against the police as the fuel protestors in 2001.

Think now of the people involved, the fuel protestors had a cause, whereas the NikeBerry looters didn’t [1].

The fuel protestors realised (probably because they were grownups) how much damage was going to happen if they kept going and gave up.

The NikeBerry looters gave up because it rained on Thursday evening. A question that occurs being 'had it been sunny for another couple of weeks when and how would this situation have been controlled'?

Given this more pessimistic scenario, to my mind, the suspension of the right to ‘free speech’ [2] would certainly have been worthwhile to allow the police to restore law and order.

[1] A peaceful vigil by the family of man shot by the police which then morphed into an excuse of criminal activity is not a ‘cause’

[2] Probably disruption of telephone communications rather than ‘social’ media anyway

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WTF?

@Titus Technophobe

You appear not to understand the concept of "fundamental human rights" if you think that you can "protect" one right by *removing* another.

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WTF?

@Graham

It's not that I don't understand the concept, I just don't accept that it exists. We have to work with that which we find, rather than what we might aspire to?

Also given the situation with the riots my response is that 'Human rights' exist for 'Humans'. Where people chose to behave like animals they should get treated accordingly.

In any event the suggestion above does not as such completely abrogate the right to 'Freedom of Speech' just imposes a bit of a delay.

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Anonymous Coward

@Titus

Of course the notion that shutting down the bbm network would have had any thing beyond the shortest term effect, before people reverted to twitter/facebook/good old fashioned sms/ms messenger/aim/skype/watching tv and phoning each other up.

The comparison to the miners strike is inaccurate as the main reason those strikes finally ended was that people hadn't been earning money for months. Also that the mines at the time existed almost exclusively to provide jobs to people that worked near the mines and were running at a loss, they may have been able to run better but that would have meant more automation and smaller work forces that would lead to fewer jobs. The recent riots were a case of "hey we can get some free shit and lob some crap at the plod"

I too was just waiting for the rain to make the people stay at home, fair weather looters.

As an event it had little to do with free speech but without live TV and mobile devices it would have likely not have kicked off, also if more harsh methods were used on the first day of riots I expect there wouldn't have been quite the scale of trouble later on. As people went "hmmm I think I'll give that baton to the face a miss"

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Boffin

@Titus Technophobe

"We have to work with that which we find, rather than what we might aspire to?"

Right, so let's support Human Rights, all the way up to the precise moment at which they become inconvenient, then we throw them away and go for simple expediency which is far easier.

"Human rights' exist for 'Humans'. "

Are you looking for the word "Untermenschen" here? Just asking...

As for "does not as such complete abrogate the right to 'Freedom of Speech", perhaps you'd like to consider the expression "A little bit pregnant".

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Anonymous Coward

@Graham Marsden

It is possible that basic human rights can come into conflict with each other. For example the right to a family life can be brought into conflict with the right of freedom of speech, if those using the freedom of speech right are using it to organise a riot where they are burning down houses. One has to give and it's only right that the one that gives is the one which doesn't cause actual harm to other people. Privacy and freedom of speech can come into conflict as well as has been demonstrated with the recent tabloid scandals. It is less clear cut which should give way in these situations.

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Silver badge

@AC: "It is possible that basic human rights can come into conflict with each other."

Only if you ignore the fact that with Rights come *Responsibilities*.

As you say, if your exercising of one right infringes on someone else's rights then you are abusing your right by causing harm to another.

The point is, though, that *unless* there is evidence of harm, the exercise of a right should not be infringed. The use of Facebook, Twitter, BBM etc does *not* cause harm (even though some may use it irresponsibly) but the power of the Government to mass block such services based on the Precautionary Principle of "well, it might do some good" certainly *would* cause harm to Freedom of Expression.

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@Graham Marsden

So what you are saying is that where people are ignoring their responsibilities and infringing on more fundamental rights of other people then it is acceptable to label these people Untermenschen?

Given this situation it would then be acceptable to curtail the rights of the Untermenschen?

Surely this is pretty much what I have suggested above?

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WTF?

@Titus Technophobe

Did you actually bother to *read* anything that I wrote, or did you just decide for yourself that that was what I said...???

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FAIL

@Graham Marsden

> Only if you ignore the fact that with Rights come *Responsibilities*.

> As you say, if your exercising of one right infringes on someone else's rights then you are abusing your right by causing harm to another.

I'm not quite sure that looting a business or burning a home down would count to your mind as infringing somebody else rights, but it does to my mind. That being the case I see nothing wrong with temporarily restricting the rights of the perpetrators to have freedom of speech to coordinate such activities.

> The point is, though, that *unless* there is evidence of harm, the exercise of a right should not be infringed.

See above, the events discussed did feature looting, burning, the odd murder or two. Looks kind of like 'harm' to me.

> The use of Facebook, Twitter, BBM etc does *not* cause harm (even though some may use it irresponsibly) but the power of the Government to mass block such services based on the Precautionary Principle of "well, it might do some good" certainly *would* cause harm to Freedom of Expression.

You admit yourself the irresponsible use of Facebook, Twitter etc. These are mechanisms by which the local low life youth do indeed coordinate activities. The harm that this can do is known only too well to those of us who have inadvertently hosted a party for a couple of hundred or so of these youths.

I refer you to my original post about the coordination of these attacks.

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Big Brother

@Titus Technophobe

Right, so you did just decide for yourself that was what I said, rather than reading what I wrote.

I see little point in addressing your ridiculous Straw Man arguments, I'll just point out again that just because *some* people might abuse a right or a service like Facebook, Twitter et al, it doesn't justify stopping *everyone* from using it, not least because the "low life youth" would just switch to another method of communication whist the legitimate users are denied access because of your Precautionary Principle idea that "well, we don't know that it will do any good, but let's try it, just in case".

The fact that you have then set a precedent that, if something happens you don't like, it then justifies subsequent abuses of people's rights because "well it might not have worked last time, but let's try it again and we'll go *further* this time..." appears to have escaped you.

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@Graham Marsden

> Right, so you did just decide for yourself that was what I said, rather than reading what I wrote.

No, I gave my explanation of what you wrote above. Perhaps you might like to answer points, rather than just rolling out platitudes again.

> I see little point in addressing your ridiculous Straw Man arguments, ...........

Straw man arguments? It was my post to which you originally responded?

> Principle idea that "well, we don't know that it will do any good, but let's try it, just in case".

The switching of mobile phones to emergency only in the areas affected wasn't even tried, how is this an argument? The legitimate users of Facebook, Twitter etc would only be denied access in the immediate area of the trouble. And lets face it, during a riot how important is it to a legitimate user to update their face book status, check the farm, upload the latest photo of the cat?

> The fact that you have then set a precedent that, if something happens you don't like, it then justifies subsequent abuses of people's rights because "well it might not have worked last time, but let's try it again and we'll go *further* this time..." appears to have escaped you.

Just to repeat 'The blocking mobile phones in the areas wasn't even tried, how is this an argument?', it is therefore a bit difficult to go further with something that hasn't been done? What precedent?

As I mentioned above what you refer to as 'rights' I would tend to think of as 'privileges' (rights and responsibilities). Privileges arguments aside, I'm not sure, but I think you accept the argument that where people abuse the human rights of others it is then acceptable to curtail their human rights in an attempt to stop the abuse? That being the case what I have suggested 'a temporary suspension of the right to free speech via the phone network' would seem entirely appropriate.

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Big Brother

@Titus Technophobe

Oh dear, again you put try to put *your* words into *my* mouth.

I'm not going to bother re-addressing points I've already made and you've ignored, I'll just point out that so many abusive regimes have started their careers with a "temporary" suspension of rights.

Please feel free to have the last word, but I'll leave the last words in my post to George Satayana:

"Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

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Black Helicopters

All rules can be changed

If you are the ruling powers, that means at will.

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Gold badge

My conclusion

"So when the Home Office says (as it has done) that no new powers are needed, then it follows that either no new powers are needed (ie, the government already has the power to block social networking communications) or the politicians have quietly gone off the idea (and have decided not to say so)."

Your article would suggest that the existing powers *aren't* adequate, so I have to conclude that the politicians have gone off the idea. That wouldn't be surprising. The riots are over. Parliament is back on holiday. The papers are back to reporting the "Arab Spring". The only possible incentive to bringing forward new powers would back that it would piss off the Lib Dems in the coalition and please the right wingers. Oh, hang on ... there's party conferences coming up.

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Stop

<title>

So how were the Toxteth/Brixton riots organised? Or didn't they happen because Farcebook didn't exist?

Typical knee-jerk reaction from politicians who want to be seen as doing something. Doesn't matter if it is the right "thing" as long as they're seen to be doing it.

Never mind blocking Twatter/Farcebook when there's an emergency, just block the inane ramblings of politicians who don't know their arse from their elbow.

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Meh

SoE

I'm always suspicious about any legislation that mentions a 'state of emergency' without proscribing a limit on just how long that state can remain in place. Haven't some middle eastern countries been living in a 'state of emergency' for decades now? Surely after so long that just becomes a 'state of normalcy'...

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Anonymous Coward

title

The rioters in Manc were using kids on BMX's as forward lookouts, keeping tabs on the police and barking out movements - how would stopping BBM and txting stop that?

Who's betting the next time the riots happen and they flip the comms switch, everyone piles into the nearest toy shop and swipes a bunch of walkie talkies instead?

People need to stop looking into ways of disrupting a riot as it happens and fix the problems that cause them in the first place, or is that too much hassle?

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Anonymous Coward

no title, no problem

The easiest way to do that is to leave the networks up and direct the army to where the rioters are. If you machine-gun enough of them, the rest will 1) go home and live or 2) stay there and die.

The real problem is preventing the situation in the first place... if that fails to happen, kill-em-all.

Of course, to be fair, everyone in the chain-of-command that authorized the use of deadly force should be dealt with using the same force, in the same way, at the same time, no exceptions. This way, the people who allowed the situation to develop, and "solve it with violence(tm)" won't ever be able to make that same mistake again. It will also allow for quite a few promotions, and of course, some primo homes becoming available.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't understand why anyone would want to stop rioters using Twitter

They'll keep talking, but the police won't be able to have someone easily watching the feeds. If the muppets want to do the equivalent of shouting their intentions then we shouldn't stop them.

BBM might be more of a problem though I suppose.

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The main problem's the TV news

How many copycat riots were there after the very similar triggering riot last March?

None.

This was, of course, because the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear accident in Japan did a fantastic job of keeping such trivia off the telly.

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Contacts

Firstly using an Ip hide will stop the tracking and the actual "looking at" what you are doing, secondly, Wifi is not as widely used in Libya as say the UK, London in particular, and thirdly, the only way to really block these type of sites is to shut down the world. It does seem to me that certain people that are supposedly in power lead extremely sheltered lives. Just imagine, Facebook, yahoo messenger, Skype all being monitored and then shut down.

So for example a person appearing to be say in Malaya, but actually in France stimulating malicious unrest in Toxteth stands no chance of being traced as on top of that they were using a McDo wifi.

If one is stupid enough to do something like that and use ones own home phone and "tag" then they need locking up for their own safety.

I am guessing that somewhere there is actually one person that told the supercillious twits that they stand more chance of shutting the moon down to stop those that suffer from moon effects and going beserk every month on a full moon!!!

On the subject of setting petrol on fire with a mobile phone, oh dear you have been reading too many filling station and hospital signs.

I have a radio in my vehicle that transmits so much power that at 100m the watts received is probably 100x that of the mobile phone at 10mm.

The effect of my radio on say hospital stuff or gas stations is nil at 20m.

The only adverse effect of using the mobile is that you were probably using it when you lost control and thats why you have it in your hand! If the car was upside down in any case the vehicle would act as a cage and block all signals anyway.

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Paris Hilton

Scaremongering rubbish

No UK government in the foreseeable future is going to resort to using the Civil Contingencies Act to close down channels of communication in order to inhibit a little rioting.

- It would prompt absolute bloody uproar amongst MPs and Lords on all sides for the Government to circumvent Parliamentary authority outside of a real emergency with a large scale threat to life

- The courts would probably have something to say about the use of the Civil Contingencies Act for such a purpose given that the government 1. would only have any need to use such a power if the police refused to use their own 2. has had time to introduce legislation to make this power available to the Home Secretary had it deemed it that important.

Paris, because appreciate the show-and-tell (of the Police Act) but the discussion is out of touch with reality.

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Joke

Declare a NO-FLY zone above the UK!

<satire>

NATO should just declare a no-fly zone above the UK, arm the rebels and bomb the sh*t out of Cameron!

Hey! It worked for Libya! >:)

</satire>

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Black Helicopters

Let's have a riot

Let's have a riot. Let's have a riot. Let's have a riot. Let's have a riot.

Time: When hell freezes over.

Location: TBC

Just checking to see how long before I get hauled up for this.

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Meh

Twitter will be fine

Politicians might well fear the likes of Twitter, as they allow voters to chat easily with each other. It would be a dangerous game to take a too heavy hand with it

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