Friday 12 August 2011

David Cameron isn't going to censor Twitter

. . . not least because there is a whole grab-bag of national and European human rights legislation which would prevent such an incredibly counter-productive move, not to mention the centuries of British tradition of respect for free speech which would be set at nought by it. However, this statement is simply propaganda gold-dust for every corrupt, repressive, and dictatorial regime in the world:

" . . we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality."

Here's Xinhua crowing:

"We may wonder why western leaders, on the one hand, tend to indiscriminately accuse other nations of monitoring, but on the other take for granted their steps to monitor and control the Internet.

They are not interested in learning what content those nations are monitoring, let alone their varied national conditions or their different development stages.

Laying undue emphasis on Internet freedom, the western leaders become prejudiced against those "other than us," stand ready to put them in the dock and attempt to stir up their internal conflicts."

Meanwhile, the police, who the majority of British people rightly credit for developing - somewhat tardily - the tactics necessary to quell the riots, are showing us exactly why it would be both wrong and counter-productive to block social networking sites in such circumstances. From the Greater Manchester Police's Twitter feed:

And this man is far from the only looter caught via social media. The police have been posting tweet after tweet throughout the day about arrests carried out based on information obtained by the public through photos on Flickr, through bragging on Twitter feeds and Facebook, and through other web-available sources such as Craigslist and eBay. Unlike mobile phone calls, communication by text, even through encrypted networks, leaves an electronic paper trail which police can later use as evidence. No snooping or espionage is needed to do this - all of this information was either posted openly on the internet, or was provided by members of the public with access to it.

It is hard to believe that the majority of this information would have been entrusted with the police if it had firstly not been possible to upload it, and secondly, the police were seen as being in the position of censoring the media. I no more credit David Cameron's suggestion that censorship or restriction of access might be considered, than I do his various other tough-man poses regarding the use of water cannon (dismissed by the police as unsuitable) and plastic bullets (always issued in riot conditions, but only for use in the most extreme conditions).

[Picture: Social networking of a different kind - notes posted on the smashed windows of a shop in Clapham Junction as 300 volunteer "Riot Wombles" worked to clear up the mess left behind by the looters. Picture taken by Tom Goold, a former colleague of mine in Japan, on his way back from work on Wednesday evening.]


Anonymous said...

Good follow up FOARP. Even Gadaffi and Iran have got into the act in their own comical way.

I am awarding Cameron the KT Linthead of the Year medal for his really reflective political pronouncements.

The upcoming Bill Bratton intervention will be truly hilarious.

justrecently said...

David Cameron should be toast after his demonstration of helplessness and disorientation ("stopping communication"). There seems to be a deep gap between politics and professionalism these days.

(Why did I go right to the Peking Duck after reading this Cameron quote?)

Gilman Grundy said...

The thing is that a lot of what David Cameron has supported in the past (particularly his "Big Society" initiative, and his much-mocked "hug-a-hoodie" speech) are actually the kinds of things which might offer a long-term solution. It's his short-term, meaningless attempts at being seen to be 'tough' and in charge that I object to.

justrecently said...

Cameron advocated a more "muscular liberalism" in Munich, in February this year, at the security conference.

If he loses sight of his actual policies this easily (I suppose that he means what he says), I seriously doubt his competence.

His social networks threats weren't only hollow (as you pointed out yourself) - they make his very liberalism the laughing stock of the enemies of an open society.

Anonymous said...

Lets review some recent markers in English governance.

Endemic and criminal rorting of parliamentary allowances.

The ongoing NoW phone hacking business.

Bundles of cash to Met officers for inside information.

And the latest mass shopping arson excellent adventures by the yobs.

And the investigation/judicial responses to each.

Only the latter been given rapid turnaround with the 24/7 wheels of justice, tumbril/court spectacle.

Surely the 12 who were arrested for the hacking business should get the same accelerated legal attention. And the same goes for cops on the sling.

Since one yob just got six months for stealing an industrial sized bottle of water, you have got to ask what sort of sentences will be handed out to the first three of the above categories eg perjury, fraud, conspiracy, official corruption etc.

This takes me back to 18th/early 19th instances of 'English justice' handed down during the Captain Swing etc episodes of class disaffection.

The stink and hypocrisy given off by the ruling elite is beyond imagination.

While I would not want one of these yobs living next door, I am quite prepared to provide political assylum to any who escape this Great Fear roundup.

And don't be surprised if they seek their revenge during the Games.

Gilman Grundy said...

@KT - I have to say, I have no problem with shoplifters getting six months (which in reality means three). I also have no problem with a 5 month sentence for handling stolen goods. The law allows such sentences, and the fact that so many of them performed these crimes out of sheer opportunism emphasises the relative seriousness of their crimes.

You may think it rough justice, but the vast majority are pleading guilty, usually due to the fact that they've been caught red-handed on CCTV or via social media. If Aus wants to give such people asylum, you are welcome to them.

As for the phone-hackers, I hope they also get the maximum sentence allowed. Had they been performing their acts on camera, many more of them would have been caught. The laxness of the police in pursuing phone-hacking until it became a public scandal is no reason for the police not to pursue looting and violence.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I was overstating my point and getting exercised by the very differing speeds at which the wheels of justice are turning.

We could equally apply the relative seriousness = sheer opportunism equation to the allowance rorting epidemic, don't you think?

More to the point, the problems caused by this yob underclass are beyond resolution by either traditional right or left paradigms. Its been long in the making, and is the consequence of a raft of housing, judicial, social and other past policies over decades.

The end result cannot be unscrambled overnight, and least of all by Cameron's thunder and brimestone. Sure, people of good will can assemble with their brooms and dust pans, while denouncing this trashing of their communities, but this festering yob class won't disappear or change their way of thinking. They will simply opt for tactics beyond CCTV and text/fb tracing next time around.

I don't see them as primitive rebels a la Hobsbawn, since their only solidarity is related to their attachment to name brand commodities. They also prey on each other in a very Darwinian sense, a point I will expand on in my blog