Posts tagged ‘internet censorship’
On Tuesday the security firm Unisys released the latest results of what they call their bi-annual global Unisys Security Index, a ‘global study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security related issues‘.
Of the two questions that the survey asked, it was the second one about social media, which caught the attention of the MSM – or the Guardian anyway.
What did they ask?
During recent unrest in major UK cities, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate criminal activity. Do you agree with these statements?
- The authorities are playing catch up and need more resources to monitor online behaviour?
- During outbreaks of unrest, providers should temporarily shut down social networks to prevent coordinated criminal activity?
- The authorities should have open access to data about social network users in order to prevent coordinated criminal activity>
- Providers of social networks should get more information on the people using their services before they allow use?
The Gruniad’s article on the matter says:
More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.
A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.
Which, after reading the report proper, only goes to confirm (as if confirmation were needed) that one should never take anything in the press at face value these days (if indeed one ever could).
The report says that the following percentages agreed with the four statements above: 49%, 48%, 46% and 42%.
Almost half I’ll grant you but hardly a majority, let alone 70%. Helpfully the report also gives some idea of how the responses breakdown by age. Not fully but enough to give us more of an idea of the views of each age group. It found that:
[The] desire to take strong measures rises with age:
- More resources for police: 41% of those 18-24 to 52% of those 50-64 (seniors: 44%)
- Temporary shut-downs during social unrest: from 28% of those 18-24 to 60% of seniors
- Police monitoring: from 36% of those 18-24 to 52% of seniors
- Background checks of new users: from 28% of those 18-24 to 49% of seniors.
Which shows us that a majority only exists as you go up the age scale. No surprises there. As for the 70% figure? The closest we get is for one age group on one statement.
Indeed the figure ’70′ doesn’t feature anywhere in the report, or assuming that the reporter James Ball (whose bio says that he ‘is a data journalist working for the Guardian investigations team. He joined the Guardian from Wikileaks, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’) didn’t get beyond it, the press release either.
About the only useful bit of the Guardian article therefore is the space filling rent-a-quote:
None of which I can disagree with at all.
It is with great sadness that I have to report that the incompetent and dictatorial former Home Secretary ‘Jackboot’ Jacqui has once again managed to get herself noticed.
Yes, this depresses me dear reader probably as much as it does you.
On Thursday last our darling Jacqui appeared in front of the Parliamentary Public Inquiry into Online Child Protection. This inquiry is the bastard off spring of Claire Perry, last seen haunting these pages back in February when I wrote about the stupidity of internet censorship.
The inquiry was launched on August 24th this year and would, I’m sure, have made front page headlines in the MSM if it weren’t for the continuing economic malaise, the dethronement of Gaddafi and the resignation of Steve Jobs.
Still, for those who are interested, Perry helpfully puts the entire press release on her own website and includes an obligatory “won’t someone think of the children” quote:
Parents are understandably worried about the ease with which their children can view pornographic content on the Internet and this Inquiry will provide the ideal platform for all interested parties to discuss how best we can protect our children online.
To which the answer is still to put the computer in a family room and install parental controls. By the time they are using a smart phone with ‘net access and have got around your controls they will have either figured out or been told that tab A goes into slot B (as well as slots C and D), probably know more than you and shouldn’t care if they sometimes come across pornography. All the government intervention in the word won’t stop that so why bother? (Yes, that is a rhetorical question, Ed.)
Anyway, I’ve digressed. Easy enough to do given how much stupidity on is on display here.
The inquiry is taking evidence in two sessions, the first of which was on September 8th, and featured amongst its witnesses the aforementioned Mrs Timney.
In her evidence (MSM only, can’t find the official record) she suggested making it harder to access online pornography in the UK:
She proposed that if all adult content were only accessible to customers who specifically opted in to it through their internet service providers, then the adult industry might see its profits improved. Online porn has suffered economically in the wake of free YouTube-style sites.
Well I can spot two things wrong with that idea immediately:
- As a responsible adult it isn’t up to anyone else to decide what I choose to view online; and
- Whilst profits made by business concern you in so far as how much you can tax them (I’m ignoring the arguments on who actually pays the tax here, Tim!) regulating to try and save and industry that apparently needs to evolve in order to solve its piracy issues is a bloody stupid idea!
After giving evidence (if offering suggestions isn’t twisting the word too much) she said that a quid pro quo for government help (i.e. the stick) would be that the industry could help fund sex education programs.
Do we really need more sex ed programs? Or are you trying to suggest that the current ones are under-funded? I seem to recall being taught the birds and the bees at school once a year every year from 10 to 14. And my parents also made sure I knew about it. Given that the previous government certainly considered, if not actually implemented, the idea of teaching kids this from an ever younger age I’m not sure there is a child in the country who doesn’t know about what can go on between consenting individuals.
What purpose would more lessons have? Are they do take the shape of a teacher/adult telling the pupils ‘pornography is bad, yeah?’ because I’m fairly certain that that approach has never worked. Ever. Not for drugs, not for smokes, not for booze and not for sex.
So why bother with more of the same?
We’ve all read newspaper stories about various unfortunate saps who have thrown parties whilst their parents have been away, only to find out that the quiet (in comparision to the outcome) gathering turns into a fairly hefty insurance claim and an indefinite grounding because word of mouth meant that lots of other people turned up as well.
When that word of mouth is the internet the number of uninvited guests can go up by at least one order of magnitude – and perhaps even two or three. But how does news of a social gathering for a smallish group of friends end up on the internet in the first place?
Because it was set up on Facebook of course. As ZDNet reports:
In March 2011, an Australian schoolgirl named Jess had to cancel her sweet 16 birthday party after her Facebook invitation went viral and over 200,000 people said they would show up at her house in Chatswood, New South Wales. She was lucky because Facebook made a point to help her out.
Last month, a young girl made the same mistake by posting a public invitation to her 16th birthday party. Around 1,500 to 1,600 uninvited guests turned up to her party in Hamburg, Germany. 100 police officers had to be deployed, and they detained 11 attendees on charges of aggravated battery and property damage. One police officer was injured, as were dozens of people who wore flip-flops and accidentally stepped on shards of glass from broken bottles. Two small fires had to be extinguished.
Shortly after, a spontaneous party in Wuppertal, Germany attracted some 800 guests, 41 of whom were taken into police custody and 16 of whom were injured. Hamburg authorities are currently preparing for a Facebook party planned for September 30 and are expecting an influx of up to 19,000 partygoers.
However rather than blame the social media behemoth – after all it is all about keeping people in contact – why not look at the person who set the event up in the first place?
Yes, Facebook does display the event creation page with the ‘Anyone can view and RSVP (public event)’ box checked by default but that is hardly a difficult thing to turn off, is it now? Indeed the author, in a spot of quick research (approximate duration one second), learnt that when that that box is unchecked a further, this time unchecked box, ‘Guests can invite friends’ is displayed. Now I realise that inherent laziness and unthinking stupidity doubtedly played a part in all of the incidences mentioned above but is unchecking a box on the internet really that difficult*?
Sadly, in isolated cases it seems so. However bar suggesting that Facebook doesn’t enable the ‘Anyone can view and RSVP (public event)’ box by default I can’t see any way to stop such acts of silliness.
Clearly then I am not cut out for elected office, at least not in Germany anyway:
“If public safety and order are endangered, then Facebook parties will have to be banned beforehand,” Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, according to Deutsche Welle.
He is not an isolated case of stupidity either:
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Ralf Jäger agreed. “If, in advance of an announced Facebook party, there are concrete indications of a danger to the participants or third parties, then it is the duty of the local authorities to ban the party.”
Whilst yet another apparently wishes to put the cost of any post-party clear-up on to the person whose event it was:
Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann warned that a harmless birthday invitation can quickly turn into a “massive security problem.” For the host that can sometimes lead to “immense costs,” as many simply want to go on a rampage, he claimed. “If there is an investigation into criminal offenses, the initiator should if possible pay for the costs of the police operation,” he told the same newspaper, according to The Local.
Thankfully there does seem to be at least one politician with some common sense:
“The simple fact that excesses happen on the sidelines of such events does not justify a general ban,” Wolfgang Bosbach, the chairman of the domestic affairs committee in parliament, told the daily Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, according to Spiegel. “There are also riots on the sidelines of football games and demonstrations but that does not mean that we should completely ban them.”
Still, if he can’t ban them then Herr Schünemann has a back-up plan: recommending the introduction of an “Internet Driving License” in schools that would explain the dangers of Facebook as he says that “Young people often don’t realize what they are getting into”.
That youngsters often don’t consider consequences of actions is hardly an earth shattering revelation but, unless they are terminally stupid, lessons, such as those taught by self-inflicted stupidity, tend to be learnt.
As one commentator on Slashdot summed it up:
This is all part of the German silly season (“Sommerloch”) – a period in summer when many political institutions are on vacation, so politicians which would normally be ignored can make it into the news – just because nobody important is active.
The statements in the article were all by conservatives in Germany (CDU + CSU). Given that it’s interesting that Dorothee Baer – secretary general of the CSU – has asked that “comments about the Internet should be made only by those who are familiar with it”. Sound advice.
And no, Germany is not considering banning facebook parties, this is just an attempt by some politicians to get noticed.
Seems strangely familiar, doesn’t it?
In a textbook example of how a story of ‘ifs’, ‘buts’ and ‘maybes’ can get out of hand, a report in the Daily Mail on May 1st about a potential tightening up of what can – or can’t be show pre-watershed caused a small amount of righteous fury yesterday.
Given that this is the Mail, they led the story with the idea that lesbian kisses could be banned from being shown under this potential change and this was picked up by The Sun which initially didn’t bother to pass on more information than just that, preferring instead to run with the outrage of an soap opera actress, who portrays a lesbian, who hadn’t read the full story either.
Cue snowball effect as various right-on internet publications, which also hadn’t bothered reading the story, all accused David Cameron and the Tories of going back to the days where they were the ‘Nasty Party’.
As the Daily Mail was at the forefront of the whole Section 28 palaver in the mid-80s and has been regularly accused of being economical with the truth by groups claiming to champion the rights of minorities you would be forgiven for thinking that such organisations wouldn’t have taken the story that they got second or third hand at face value.
Indeed, the whole basis for the original Daily Mail report is a single, anonymous source apparently close to the Bailey Review, commissioned by the government last year to ‘look at the pressures on children to grow up too quickly’, who said that:
For some parents, what has been considered acceptable in the past – such as that Brookside kiss – is not appropriate for children to see early in the evening.
And that ladies and gentlemen is it. A single line which stirred up a small internet frenzy. I suppose it would have been a bigger one but for the apparent death of someone in Pakistan which mean that, in the end, almost no-one was listening to the howls of anguish being generated by a small number of interested parties.
Shockingly, although you could have been forgiven for missing it, that wasn’t all that the anonymous source had to say. Not that the interest groups cared. Indeed I’m not sure the Mail did either as they probably thought that their job was done after giving lesbians and most of their male readership heart attacks at the thought of having to find pictures of two women kissing somewhere other than on prime time television.
Other things apparently in the firing line include raunchy dance routines on pre-watershed TV, sexual explicit advertisements in public places (by which they are generally referring to large posters of lingerie clad women) as well as a crackdown on internet pornography by enabling parents to ask web service providers to block obscene websites ‘at source’ rather than relying on parental controls.
Strangely there were no cries of outrage at any of that. No suggestions that ISPs shouldn’t exist to backstop parents who are too lazy to use controls that already exist to restrict what their children look at online. No thoughts on whether hiding away the semi-naked form is all just a touch puritan. No complaints about the potential suggestiveness of dance routines performed by the likes of Christina Aguilera and Rihanna.
Honestly, anyone would think that those making a fuss didn’t care about anything outside of justifying their own blinkered existence…
Political lobbying group and some time parenting site Mumsnet has been forced by its members to back track on its support for censoring pornography on the web. Needless to say this hasn’t pleased the new Conservative MP Claire Perry the “won’t someone think of the children” authoritarian nut job who is apparently the current cheerleader in parliament for such a scheme.
Why the change of heart?
It seems that pressure came from two directions. Firstly, the more technically savvy members threw their children’s toys out of the pram over the site’s bandwagon jumping, pointed out that as a result of the law of unintended consequences the site itself could well be filtered and downed tools – an action that resulted in no technical support for those in need. Secondly, a few members mentioned the obvious issue: that it is not the job of the state to raise children.
Strangely the second one didn’t appear to fly with one of the site’s founders:
“I think there have been some really valid points about workability raised here but the “this is the thin end of the wedge on censorship” one doesn’t make sense to me. We already censor loads of things in the name of child protection on the internet and elsewhere. Of course there are valid concerns about where you draw the line but you can’t deny that we do draw the line already all over the place – we censor illegal images, we rate dvds, we have a tv watershed.”
Who, unsurprisingly, completely misses the point. Don’t want young children to see pornography on the internet? Then don’t let them have a computer, x-box etc in their bedroom. Set up an account for them on the computer in the communal area that has proper filters in place to stop them seeing it. Don’t know how to do that? Then ask a friend, neighbour etc. Use some bloody initiative rather than expecting the state to act as backstop for your stupidity!
/takes blood pressure tablets and calms down.
Eventually however Mumsnet did decide that perhaps it had acted too hastily and the same person who posted the previously stupidity said:
“We are not going to back any solution… what we are interested in is protecting children online. However, everything we do on Mumsnet is a conversation and our opinions evolve with our users.”
Translation: We got our fingers burnt and next time we will talk to the membership before leaping on any passing bandwagons.
We aren’t of course out of the woods as yet. The government, in the shape of Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as well as the aforementioned Clarie Perry, is already talking to ISPs about getting them to filter the web. Perry, writing in the Telegraph, explains that she would like to see “a home network level ‘opt-in’ filter for internet porn”. Additionally the head of Ofcom (that government quango) said that, “given the technological convergence, if the ISP industry does not come up with a workable opt-in solution, regulation may be the only answer”.
Safermedia – a Christian charity (fake charity status unknown) also campaigning for internet filtering – said about the proposals:
I am surprised that parents would be critical of the campaign because the idea is to help parents. If internet users have to opt in to view pornography parents don’t have to worry about protecting their children from it… I think there has to be censorship to protect children. If you’re over 18 you won’t be censored [under the proposals]“
For crying out loud, when will you fools get it? You’ve recently been berating various countries like Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia for closing down the internet in order to try and stop anti-government protesters. You frequently complain about China locking down the internet and employing an army of thousands to police content as well as companies such as Google who have bowed to the regime there and acted as censors.
Even after all of that you want to employ similar tactics in this country? And all because of the emotive rallying cry of “Won’t someone think of the children”. In the name of the children we have the Criminal Records Bureau, the Independent Safeguarding Authority and others. Have they made children any safer from the paedophile that would otherwise be living under every bed and stalking the corridors of our schools, youth centres and any other place where children might go? No, of course they haven’t. All those bits of paper have done is ensure that innocent people are dismissed from their jobs and that children are being taught to fear all adults.
Can such a scheme even work? Well the Australian government under Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard have been trying to do the same for some years now without success (as yet). It has been dogged by controversy with banned sites so far including such horrors as a dental practice and various education sites – quite amusing given that Stephen Conroy, the idiot charged with trying to implement the scheme, has said that it would be “100% accurate”. An opinion poll has suggested that over 90% of the Australian public don’t want the scheme and even children’s charities out there have dismissed it as a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere.
In the end though it is not about the children – that is just a convenient hook to use and one that can be hard to argue against without being smeared as someone who supports child pornography and other such nonsense – but about control. The internet, allowing the rapid dissemination of information, is a threat to governments around the world regardless of how democratic they appear to be and for that reason they want to place limits on it.
Such behaviour must be resisted at all costs.