Monday, 6 December 2010

Conformity? Part 2

To me, it often feels like the world powers, the EU, the governments, the "anti racist" pressure groups and activists, the religions with agendas, giant corporations, media moguls, the myriad of world shaping buffoons will not be happy until the internet is controlled, sanitised, sold off, restricted and packaged to "conform" to that rolling agenda we are subjected to away from the internet.

The police seem quite intent and eager to extend their role into the digital sphere, making it their business to try and police peoples thoughts and comments. No doubt the idea behind it is a good one  from their perspective - i.e. nobody should ever be hurt and offended, nobody should be subjected to abuse, nothing should give rise to unrest or violence, etc etc.

Unfortunately the world is not like that, it never will be, and trying to enforce it into being so is never pleasant.

Under the guise of  combating "Organised Crime" and a "Crackdown on Paedophilia" (as well as "Islamic Extremism") I foresee a whole raft of legislation being passed - and then later abused and twisted - to lock down almost everything piece by piece, just like they have in the "real" world.

Anyone who opposes the measures along the way will therefore be labelled as being in favour of organised crime and supportive of paedophilia. Who would really want to enter into that defence? Not many, one would presume. It is not rocket science for where they will turn their attention next. In fact, it is already being done.

Whilst it is easy to get paranoid about all this, let's have a look at some relatively recent events which indicate moves along these lines. I do not take any particular interest in any of the following stories themselves, but what is being done in regard to them is more my area of concern:

The 'student protest' is one very recent example, where the police were collecting information and using surveillance techniques to build databases on the protesters. This has happened before, and happens all the time whether it be anti-capitalist marches, pro/anti fox hunting protests, Iraq war protests, and yes, British National Party gatherings and whatever else.

In the aftermath of the student protests this time around, a website (which monitors the police state operatives) was offering advice on what the law actually is - and how to make sure that protesters were not arrested under false premise or likely to dig a hole for themselves. Genuine criminal activities should  of course be dealt with, but lawful protest and "nuisance" activity is important to sustain if we are to be free people at all.

As far as I am aware, this particular website in question had a simple list of "do" and "do nots". For example, informing people that breach of the peace is not an offence that you can get a conviction for, that unless you are guilty of breaking a real law you do not have to provide your name or address, that they cannot take DNA or fingerprints from you under these circumstances without your consent (otherwise it is assault), and so on and so forth. (Law is not my strong point, so do not take the above as being gospel).

In the last 10 to 15 years there seems to have been a slow but steady rise in the use of police tactics to try and deter political protests of all kinds - and putting the frighteners on people by abusing the law (and by using in your face cameras for 'spotting cards') is just another aspect of that. Dissent is being suppressed. The pan lid of the pressure cooker is being locked down.

People have already been arrested and detained for delivering legal leaflets in this country,  the police have not protected the public if they are seen to be "abhorrent", zones have been erected where it is "permissible" to hold a rally or assembly, innocent people have been clubbed. The list goes on.

MP's of all political persuasions are coming out to slowly curtail "problematic" uprisings which have the potential for wider ramifications in the country.  A typical example is this snippet. I do not know who this woman is, and I do not suggest she is a bad person or anything like that - however, just what is being recommended here?

Margot James, MP for Stourbridge, is calling on Home Office ministers to extend Police powers to ban marches and demonstrations to cover rallies, which are at the moment exempt from the legislation.
The English Defence League (EDL) get around legislation that might be used to ban their activities (which come at a huge cost to taxpayers) and Margot James has written to Home Office Ministers Nick Herbert MP (Police) and James Brokenshire MP (Crime Prevention) urging them to give Police the powers to ban rallies when there is a serious risk to public order.
Margot said “council taxpayers in Stourbridge and the rest of the Dudley Borough want to see their money spent on essential public services and not on policing demonstrations by organisations like the EDL. The group has caused disruption to towns across the country including Dudley. A loophole that allows the EDL to call their activity a rally not a march so as to escape a potential ban should be closed.”
I am not a fan of the EDL by any stretch of the imagination - but the principle of having rallies and marches to disrupt the cosy lives of the government and it's imposed directions is an important one to have. In a functioning democracy, the cost aspect unfortunately has to be absorbed. If they do not want such demonstrations, I suggest they take a bit more notice of why those people are demonstrating.

The same goes for Islamists and Islamic fanatics - we need to hear what they wish to impose, so that the wider populace get a clue about the "reasoning" behind what will be coming later. Locking it down, shutting it off, is not going to make it go away.

The rather left-wing documentary "Taking Liberties" is a good insight of what certain aspects of the police service are now being used for. Not all of them, but some of them.

It is a shame it is so "leftwing" biased - but it shows that even the upper middle class toffs are not exempt from crackdowns.  

The footage of the police holding a coach door closed (so that protesters could not leave the coach) really should have people concerned about what kind of country we now live in, and what the police are capable of doing for their masters.

We have a right to anonymity in a free society, we have a right to not end up on a secret police database for peaceful yet persistent dissent. The activities of trying to shield who you are, trying not to be arrested for taking part in a protest, trying not to end up on the DNA database and entered into "the system" pisses these police units off - they do not like it one bit because it hinders their work of applying conformity and obedience.

This is why the police were outraged that advice on how to not fall into these traps were being published online.   

What happened next, to me, was quite bizarre. 

They researched into who was hosting the website (a company in the United States) and a Detective Inspector at the Metropolitan Police telephoned them to demand that the website was taken down, on the terms of it "perverting the course of justice" and it "being used to undertake criminal activities".

Whilst not having any power or authority whatsoever over the web host in question, the request was complied with and the whole website was taken down.

This was probably due to the Detective Inspector implying, in effect, that the host would likely be held liable for the content if it did not remove the website.

The police officer had therefore used threats to bypass the legal process, undermined various protections on the freedom of expression, and had also demanded (in the process of this) that the website host not only take down the entire website - but also for the domain and IP addresses to be seized for 12 months (which is also currently against those protections).

That the website in question is a general and well known thorn in the side of the surveillance police state is surely just coincidental right? Perhaps, but I don't entirely think so.

The website has since been reinstated - reportedly because the police had no grounds whatsoever for acting this way. The content was deemed legal.

But, it doesn't stop there:

In what looks to be a reaction to this "snub" - the police have called for "new powers" and look likely to get them too.

Police to get greater web censorship powers
Nominet prepares to yank more domains

By Chris Williams,
25th November 2010

Police will effectively get more powers to censor websites under proposals being developed by Nominet, the company that controls the .uk domain registry.

Following lobbying by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Nominet wants to change the terms and conditions under which domain names are owned so that it can revoke them more easily in response to requests from law enforcement agencies.

The changes will mean that if Nominet is given "reasonable grounds to believe [domains] are being used to commit a crime" it will remove them from the .uk registry.

"There are increasing expectations from Law Enforcement Agencies that Nominet and its members will respond quickly to reasonable requests to suspend domain names being used in association with criminal activity and Nominet has been working with them in response to formal requests," the not-for-profit company told its members – the firms that sell .uk addresses – in a briefing this week.

At present, there is no specific obligation under Nominet's terms and conditions for owners to ensure their domain names are not used for crime. Plans for more such action, which was taken without any court oversight, are likely to raise concerns over the potential for increased censorship online.

Last week, for example, the PCeU contacted the ISP hosting Fitwatch, a website the Met alleged was offering illegal advice to student protestors, and had it taken down. Mirror sites and copies of the information it carried quickly sprang up across dozens of hosts, making the attempted censorship ineffective.

By working through Nominet, however, it would be much easier for police to centrally block such efforts by revoking the domain name of any website republishing the allegedly illegal information.

Apparently aware of such concerns, in its briefing for members, Nominet said it will consider creating an appeals process, and that it will only act "if the incident was urgent or the registrar failed to comply [with a police request to revoke a domain name]".

Nominet's move nevertheless represents a victory for SOCA, which is also campaigning for similar arrangements internationally.

According to the Tech Eye website:

While obviously a certain amount of policing of the internet is expected, such as removing child pornography or terrorist guidelines, what is a potentially trigger-happy proposal could lead to genuine websites being taken offline on baseless suspicions, bringing us that one step closer to censoring the internet.

Does anybody seriously think it will only be child porn, terrorists and fake-goods that get tackled?! It is time to think again, if you do.  Let's stitch in some 'coincidental' parallel news from just the week before all of this:

Government proposes internet ‘mediation service'

People should be able to demand that inaccurate data is deleted from the web, says Ed Vaizey, the minister for communications.
It is likely that the burden of any mediation service would fall to internet service providers, in much the same way that Nominet, the UK’s internet registry, deals with domain name disputes.

"It is certainly worth the Government brokering a conversation with the internet industry about setting up a mediation service for consumers who have legitimate concerns that their privacy has been breached or that online information about them is inaccurate or constitutes a gross invasion of their privacy to discuss whether there is any way to remove access to that information.”

Court action will not be required before ISPs can be asked to remove inappropriate or inaccurate content. Mr Vaizey said that the Government would open discussions with internet service providers to establish the practical steps that would be needed to remove data from the web.
According to this news site here
Ed Vaizey, the UK minister for communications, has proposed the Internet service providers (ISP) should come up with a Mediation Service that would allow them to censor content on their networks.
Speaking on the issue of Internet privacy at the House of Commons, Mr. Vaizey suggested that ISPs should take content down on receiving a complaint from a member of the public.{...} He added that they were going pursue discussions with ISPs to determine whether there was any way to remove access to inappropriate information.

Coincidence to the Police requests this week?

Although not exactly connected at this moment, just where do all these avenues lead? - and will they come to overlap in a few years time?.

Like most of our other laws, what started off as one thing suddenly becomes "well, we have this law and that law in place already, so why don't we join them together extend them to cover this other aspect as well?"....Perhaps the slippery slope is being freshly oiled for the future?

What exactly is "inappropriate" or "wrong" content anyway? We may be finding out in due course.

With the previous mention of authorities (SOCA) seeking to apply these kinds of rules and regulations in partnership with other agencies and countries around the world, I am paranoid enough to believe the consequences of all this may end up quite far reaching one day.

Take (for example) what is already happening in Australia.

This could mean, in the future, that a cross-board of countries could pull sites from the internet which are deemed to "stir up hatred" - ie what they deem as Nationalism and the rejection of their new world order agenda - or anything else which the prevailing elite do not seem to find favourable.

No more blog, no more "British Resistance" site, no more comments on the British National Party website itself - should that be exempt for some reason itself! 

Perhaps political views and the rights to express an opinion in international law will help challenge some of this - but I would count on having to fight for it.

It is not the first time the blogosphere has been targeted either. People should remember Italy's attempts to encroach onto the internet, which comprised of a proposed law that would force bloggers to register with the government, produce certificates on request and pay a tax in order to write a blog, even a personal one with no commercial purpose.

No more anonymity, no more freedom to express personal views and theories without facing the "consequences" if you "cross the line" on 'acceptable' thoughts or research. More here.

But what of other parts of Europe, and the European Union?

Last January, the French Inter-ministerial Committee on Racism and Anti-Semitism met to discuss measures to ban websites deemed by public moralists to be "racist." The French government, acting in accordance with resolutions of the European Parliament (that urge all the member states of the European Union to "combat racism and xenophobia") set about establishing a plan of action.

The French authorities are therefore currently working on "a plan of action at the national and international levels, mobilising public authorities, Internet operators and special-interest groups to combat the expression of racist commentary on the Internet."

A report which was presented to the French government on the 21st January last year acknowledged that information on the Internet is often international, with some of their own citizens blogs being hosted in foreign countries such as the United States. 

Hence, it proposed that the French and American public authorities work out a plan to combat Internet racism as a whole.

This plan must also “allow for the participation of national and international NGOs involved in the fight against racism on the Internet.”  It stated.

Would you like the EHRC, Searchlight, UAF, NUJ, and a whole assortment of totalitarian genocidal maniacs "help" police the internet? I certainly don't.

In the fight against "racism", civil-liberties and privacy concerns are only of secondary importance to these people.

One of these Non-Governmental Organisations participating in the French report is the "Movement Against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples" (MRAP), which monitors “racism” in France. 

Last January, MRAP presented a 154-page report  listing more than 2,000 URLs (including 1,000 blogs) deemed to be “racist”, “racialist”, “ethno-differentialist”, “extreme-right”, “anti-Semitic,” “Islamophobic,” “homophobic,”  etc. 

You may think that the list only contains nut-jobs and scary sites that would frighten Atilla the Hun, but the website of the American scholar Daniel Pipes was listed as a “neoconservative” site which "develops Islamophobic themes", as well as websites associated with Libertarianism, websites of the "New Right" movement, patriotic 'identity' orientated sites and ones associated with the French Front National party. {I have not looked into the content of all the sites listed, and nor should it be necessary!}.

A follow up related to this can be seen here:

The report recommends a full-on action plan calling on everyone in the chain and organizing their tools for action. Some might say that each of these measures in itself is modest – that more spectacular action would be needed to take up such a challenge.
Put into practice, this plan nevertheless shows that Internet governance is possible, that it requires collective input from public and private stakeholders and that international cooperation must be developed.
The plan is based on three key objectives:

First of all, improve assessment of the phenomenon by promoting adoption of a common standard within governmental departments, making improved coordination possible between departments and between these and associations, strengthening the role of the OCCLCTIC (the police department specialized on cybercrime) as the linchpin of the system and by equipping it with the means to carry out its tasks.
Secondly, prevent racist expression from becoming commonplace by steering criminal policy not just towards the most serious cases but also towards the punishment of “ordinary” racism by publishing these judgments, improving reporting and, above all, elaborating an effective education policy in the media for young people.
Thirdly, take international action to prevent evasion to Internet havens. In this regard, action aimed at the US, which hosts a large proportion of racist content, is a priority so that it ratifies the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime and that a common good behaviour code for combating online racism can be drawn up with the US and French technical intermediaries.
The French Prime Minister expressed particular interest in the report’s conclusions. After reasserting his concern with regard to the risk of racist and anti-Semitic expression becoming commonplace on the Web, he highlighted the pertinence of Ms Falque-Pierrotin’s proposals which take account of the realities of the Internet and how it works.

He has tasked the competent ministers with carrying out the proposals concerning them and will oversee coordination of their actions. The first meeting between the governmental departments involved was held at the beginning of April 2010.
The European Union itself, away from "racism", has passed (currently non binding) recommendations aimed at curtailing "eurosceptic" blogs. I remember a leaked document being reported on, which was suggesting that there were too many sites spreading "misinformation" about the EU and the EU project - and that something had to be done to make sure they were made more "accurate" and people made more accountable for spreading "untruths".
"The blogosphere has so far been a haven of good intentions and relatively honest dealing. However, with blogs becoming commonplace, less principled people will want to use them.... We do not see bloggers as a threat. They are in position, however, to considerably pollute cyberspace. We already have too much spam, misinformation and malicious intent in cyberspace. I think the public is still very trusting towards blogs, it is still seen as sincere. And it should remain sincere. For that we need a quality mark, a disclosure of who is really writing and why." - Marianne Mikko, an Estonian centre-left MEP

Euro MPs are preparing to vote on proposals for European Union regulation of blogs with the aim of countering a "dangerous" and unregulated blogosphere. 

22 Sep 2008

Mrs Mikko has proposed that bloggers should be required to identify themselves and that some popular blogs should come with a declaration of interests.

"We do not need to know the exact identity of bloggers. We need some credentials, a quality mark, a certain disclosure of who is writing and why. We need this to be able to trust and rely on the source," she said.

A recent internal European Commission report, leaked three weeks ago, found that the EU was losing the battle for hearts and minds online.

"Blog activity remains overwhelmingly negative," it said
It is not the first time that legislation has tried to be passed in the European Union with the aim of fundamentally altering the internet either. There was a concerted campaign to totally alter how the internet works, and little by little it is starting to come back into view.

In 2009 there were a few campaigns to try and save the freedom of the internet. The vast majority of the public were oblivious to this. It received little coverage. After all, there are thousands of mundane and boring things being shuffled around Brussels every year. 

According to one campaign site at the time:
The internet as we know it is at risk. The new rules in the EU (the Telecoms package) voted on May 6 (and will be negotiated again in Autumn) propose that broadband providers will be legally able to limit the number of websites you can look at, and to tell you whether or not you are allowed to use particular services. 

It will be dressed up as ‘new consumer options’ which people can choose from. People will be offered TV-like packages – with a limited number of options for you to access. It means that the Internet will be packaged up and your ability to access and to put up content could be severely restricted. It will create boxes of Internet accessibility, which don’t fit with the way we use it today.

This is because the Internet is now permitting exchanges between persons which cannot be controlled or “facilitated” by any middlemen (the State or a corporation). This possibility improves citizen’s life and makes access to knowledge easier to everyone, but force the industry (telecommunications, entertainment…) to lose power and control. 

Access providers have now learned that by controlling access they can control the Information Society development. That is why they are pushing to act those changes.

The excuse is to promote competition, offering choices to users which better fit their behavior on the Internet and, by collaborating with sectors interested in the promotion of lawful content (aka the entertainment industry), to control the flow of music, films and entertainment content against the alleged piracy by downloading for free, using P2P file-sharing. However, the real victims of this plan will be all Internet users and the democratic and independent access to information, culture goods.

Just think – what’s your web address? (the one in your blog, your web…) If the Members of the European Parliament agree to the measures proposed in the Telecoms Package, unless people have that address in their “package” of regular websites – they won’t be able to find you. That means they can’t buy, or book, or register, or even view you online. 

If we don’t do something now – we could lose free and open use of the internet.

 Also something here states:

Several alarming amendments to the Telecom Package second reading in the European Parliament are to be voted on 31 March 2009 by ITRE/IMCO committee.
The amendments are meant to give additional control to the entertainment industry, telecoms and IT security companies over the Internet.

Although the European Parliament is supposed to represent the interests and rights of the users, it seems it is trying to make compromises in agreeing upon the limitations of the users' rights pushed by the UK and France in the Council.
Also, some new amendments reintroduce the notion of lawful content, which will impose the obligation on ISPs to monitor content going through their networks.

The UK government is pushing for the "wikipedia amendments" (so-called because one of them has been created by cutting and pasting a text out of the wikipedia) in order to allow ISPs to make limited content offers.
The UK amendments eliminate the text that gives users rights to access and distribute content, services and applications, replacing it with a text that says "there should be transparency of conditions under which services are provided, including information on the conditions to and/or use of applications and services, and of any traffic management policies ."

Also a very dangerous amendment to the ePrivacy directive is introduced by the UK, allowing the telecommunications industry to collect a potentially unlimited amount of users' sensitive and confidential communications data including telephone and e-mail contacts, geographic position of mobile phones and websites visited on the Internet.

As a result of the amendments pushed by the AT&T industry, network discrimination practices could be included by the use of Traffic Management Systems, leading to a discriminative way in which users can access content, services and applications, therefore giving complete control of the network to the operators who will be able to decide who and what can access.

Only this week, the issue of allowing Internet Service Providers and companies determine "priority" viewing on their services has crept up again. This is in the form of them wanting to be allowed to charge content providers (like Iplayer, Youtube etc) for traffic - which, in effect, will make some content much more accessible than others, and present opportunities for the future internet to packaged up in deals like you would get with Cable-TV. Those who would simply use Argos, BBC Iplayer, and book their holidays etc will get that internet package which suits their 'commercial' and 'entertainment' needs.

According to this site:

Speaking at the FT World Telecoms Conference on Wednesday, communications minister Ed Vaizey claimed that a "lightly regulated internet is good for business, good for the economy, and good for people".
However, Open Rights Group chief Jim Killock responded by saying the government seemed to want to "encourage 'walled gardens' of ISP-provided services".
In a blog post on 19 October, BBC digital chief Erik Huggers said it was a "worrying development" that some ISPs wanted to move away from a neutral net model. "For companies that can pay for prioritisation, their traffic will go in a special fast lane," he wrote. "But for those that don't pay? Or can't pay? By implication, their traffic will be de-prioritised and placed in the slow lane. Discriminating against traffic in this way would distort competition to the detriment of the public and the UK's creative economy."
On Wednesday, the Open Rights Group — an organisation devoted to preserving digital rights — echoed the same fears. "Money and commercial interest can easily override public interest if we do not assert it," Killock wrote in a blog post. "In this case, unlike the USA, there is a degree of collusion going on which may lead our governments down a dangerous path.
"It seems that regulators like Ofcom and ministers of our governments do not see the future of the internet as being best served through such competition, but wish to encourage 'walled gardens' of ISP-provided services," continued Killock.
"This might suit ISPs who want income, or governments who want easy answers to pay for network investment, but it will not serve customers of services well."
Killock added that walled gardens "tip the balance against innovation, towards established copyright industry players", and warned this could eventually restrict freedom of speech.

Although I am by no means a technical person with such technology, and thus may be unfounded in my concerns, the seemingly concerted effort to have a "pincer" movement - which at one end tries to remove "unacceptable" content from the internet, in the middle tries to remove anonymity, and at the other end tries to alter how the internet is managed and packaged (in terms of what we may be able to see via our Internet Service Providers) - does give me a little cause for concern.

Given that IMRAX, the NUJ, and various other media pressure groups are lobbying for tighter controls on what the general media may report about "asylum seekers" and "immigrants", and for "guidelines" to be followed to engineer a general societal outlook (ie brainwashing and propaganda, to you and me) - sometimes I cannot help but feel the net is going to be closing in. Literally.

Whilst I may have the wrong end of the stick on these technical issues, I think it is wise to be vigilant as to where things may be sent in regards to the future direction of the internet.

Imagine a time prior to the internet, where we relied solely on what we were told from the mainstream media - where those who were politically awake had to use word of mouth to convey a message, where leaflet drops were the only route of giving out a message to wider public, where campaigning could hardly happen, where knowledge was unable to be easily assembled and recorded for posterity, where publications cost a lot of money and reached a tiny circulation of readership.........going back to that doesn't bear thinking about.

Most of us would not be "awakened" to a whole series of issues and facts if it was not for the medium of the internet. We would not have met friends and colleagues in the cause or created such a network of similar minded individuals. Therefore, I feel it is important to try and watch what is potentially being done to lock down on this particular freedom.

1 comment:

  1. "Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth." -attributed to Oscar Wilde

    That is the fact of the matter. If you believe a commenter's likely to be identified it will ultimately be the end of free speech on the internet.

    It is my belief that we;re run by unscrupulous, even evil, people who cannot bear criticism. That's why there's a need for censorship.