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UK PM Wants to “Stop People from Communicating” on Social Media

UK PM Wants to “Stop People from Communicating” on Social Media

The riots in Britain has certainly been a story major media outlets around the world have been following closely, but recent comments by British Prime Minister David Cameron on the riots have certainly raised a few eyebrows recently. Some people are saying that the comments insinuate that the Prime Minister wants to, in essence, censor the internet in the event of civil unrest.

Since trying to figure out what David Cameron is saying is in dispute, we have decided to post a video of what David Cameron said, in full, with regards to the riots:

The relevant portion is 6:40 – 7:03. In the event the video is taken down, we also decided to offer this transcription of what Cameron said:

“Mr. Speaker, everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck- will be struck by how they were organized via social media. Free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services, and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people from communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

The question is how would this be carried out? Would the government try and block certain individuals from accessing social media or would this be suggesting that the government intends to block out social media altogether? If that is uncertain, which possibility would be feasible?

If the government intends to block specific individuals instead, that would mean that everyone on different web services would have to be monitored. For that, there would essentially be a need for a massive amount of man power to monitor every communication on a given network. If it can be broken down to one person monitoring ten people’s communication, the number of people needed for such a task would be completely unfeasible just on wages, working space and training alone. The next logical step, in that case, would be to somehow automate the process. The only logical method to do so, that I can see, is have a system that monitors certain keywords. Such a method would be easily circumvented. For example, if the keyword being looked for is “riot”, then all people would have to do is use the word “ri0t” instead and a simple word search would not be able to find it. If there’s some Boolean involved where the word is “ri*t” (where the “*” can be anything) then the word can be changed again to “rio7″. If multiple variations are in place, then one can simply use services like upsidedowntext.com and use “ʇoıɹ”. What’s more, messages can be further encoded by other means including Morse Code where “riot” would become “.-. .. — -“. There’s really hundreds of ways to send a message in text to another party in the first place that don’t include any of these ideas. No automated process would ever be bullet proof.

The only other way is to track down individuals spreading such messages via other means. Really, if the government or industry interests has enough information on someone to censor them on the internet via alternate means, they might as well bust down his or her door and pick them up instead of wasting their time trying to keep them off of social networking sites in the first place. In any event, this possibility just doesn’t seem one bit feasible. Forget whether it’s right or wrong, I’m not convinced that it’s even possible in the first place.

That really leaves the other option, an option that Thinq is concerned about, blocking out social networking entirely during times of civil unrest. Some people say that Cameron didn’t directly say that he wants to censor social networking entirely, but given what he did say and how implausible the other possibility is in the first, it’s not a fear without merit in my view.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Cameron did mean to say that he wants social networks censored during times of civil unrest. So Twitter, Facebook and Blackberry instant messaging is switched off. Then what? Well, people can simply use private IRC channels as an alternative. What if all IRC servers where somehow successfully switched off? Then people can use serverless chatrooms instead. What if the protocol is blocked at the ISP level in that case? Then the data stream can be encrypted. I’m sorry, but I don’t see it working. The only way it would work is if the entire internet was shut down completely. No service for anyone period. That could reduce things down to a localized level at worst given the possibility of creating home-brew radio services among other possibilities. Ultimately, a solution like killing off all internet access in the country would really cause more problems then it would solve – both politically and legally. So even that, while more feasible then censoring individuals, is not all that feasible either.

Since this is a political statement, I can honestly say that the most that can come from this at this time is simply the prime minister trying to portray an image of control over the situation. His comments with regards to social media, I think, can be taken as little more than hot air because it doesn’t sound like he is able to wield power. In practice, it’s very doubtful he would have that much power.

[Via /.]

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Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson is perhaps one of the more well-known file-sharing and technology news writers around. A journalist in the field since 2005, his work has had semi-regular appearances on social news websites and even occasional appearances on major news outlets as well. Drew founded freezenet.ca and still contributes to ZeroPaid. Twitter | Google Plus
David Makin
David Makin

I know, let's ban oxygen then the thugs and vandals can't breathe.

World Anarchy
World Anarchy

@'Freedom means peace too!'Riots are a sign that something is seriously wrong in a society. Attempting to block people from communicating in the belief that this will somehow prevent riots in the future, amounts to an attempt to tackle the symptom, not the cause.No doubt, you'd argue that these are criminal not political events, and therefore, are a police matter, not a reason for social introspection - just jail the lads, throw away the key, and everything will be well and good. (If not, there's always the possibility of reinstating the death penalty).My own view is that doing so amounts to eliminating a huge amount of latent energy and talent that is already being wasted in a society that increasingly marginalizes a significant proportion of its population (particularly, but not only, its youth). I'd rather see that energy and talent harnessed for the common good - instead of riots. Without major social change, (elimination of usury and absentee ownership, production organized on the basis of need, not profit) I don't see that happening.The riots may not have been about social reform - but they should serve as a warning of what to expect without it.[Note: Of course, there are many related subjects - such as the issue of alienation, growing religious fanaticism, cultural degeneration, etc.. that I've not mentioned - for lack of space, not because I don't think they're important or relevant.]Have a nice day, and I hope you don't get caught up in any violence.

Freedom means peace too!
Freedom means peace too!

Well your giving these chimps too much credit. If social metworking is turned off in times of voilence they will be stumped. They won use morse code forgoodness sake!Encription.... can you see it? yer right, The only way encription works is if no one knows but the people your trying to communicate with can decode it. Mobs dont have that level of secrecy, its manic and its immediate. Thats why stopping them planning on the fly is useful.Think 10.000 twitters about what some totaly boring person just had to eat vs 200 instuctions of leave street A as its overrun my the police and get to street B its unprotected. I'll let you work out which serves the public betterMr wold anarchy - These riots were totaly unpolitical, these numpties were after nike gear not social reform. During the events it was not done in the name of any cause only in retrospect..... How does that work then. working out why you did something after you did it?One comment on the BBC warmed my heart a little and that was to the effect of ' only in true democrices can we witness what we have seen in the media, live uncensored coverage of these acts' That was from someone in dubai.Liberty is critical but law and order is fundimental, I need to be safe before I can voice my opionion, Look how stand off the police were, that because they were dealing with it like they deal with political demonstation ie very long arm.I'll respect anyone to say anying even if I think its crap but if they have a brick in their had while they are saying it I dont want to know. Mr Hari Kunzru seems not to understand the political differences between these riots and the arab spring which I find hard to comprehend or is it that hes a writter and he likes the colum inches?

World Anarchy
World Anarchy

As Mr. Hari Kunzru nicely put it in the Guardian:'It was galling to watch people who had recently praised the street fighters of the Arab spring finding their inner Mubarak, people who had been shocked (shocked!) that Middle Eastern dictators would switch off the internet, now calling for BlackBerry Messenger (which they'd just found out about) to be shut down.'

Freedom means peace too!
Freedom means peace too!

Just maybe when you have children of your own, rather than just being one, you will understand.Just a little about myself. Im mixed race, grew up on a council estate in the 70/80s when things were really racist, not like now seems quiet normal to see mixed kids now. Left school with nothing. Worked and studied at night to make up and now Im an engineer. House owner, married with childrenWe are all responsible for ourselves not the govenment

Freedom means peace too!
Freedom means peace too!

Sorry I really dont agree with you at all. I hate censorship in any form or at least I thought I did.These riots were very different to what I have seen before, made me ashamed to be british and I lived through the 80s riots, these were just greed based.If social networking is turned off in times like this those half wit rioter will not in a million years have the wit nor the time to seak alternative means of comunications. Jst maybe there is an small element that *may* have preempted this and found an alternative, the vast majority are sheep and wont have. Thus those violent people will be slightly less organised and as a result do less harm.People died over this and over what? a few pairs of t shits and jeans? Great!Now im no fool I know that things like this can be turned against us but just tell that to the chap in birmingham that lost his sons tring to protect his property. Tell him you know he has suffered loss but does he realise what an impact on personal rights it is to suspend social networking!Dear god, I thought this site was about using tecnology to help us share culture and ideas and not instructions for violent criminal acts some which lead to death.You have lost perspective

GONUTSKILLFUCKINGEVERYBODY
GONUTSKILLFUCKINGEVERYBODY

Privileged prick should be shot in the face a couple of times. My civil liberties are attacked at every given opportunity, these cunts aren't even worried about corruption charges, Mandelson is so arrogant he doesn't even try to hide the fact that he's a crooked rat fuck. Acting with impunity. All of them. I could sign a petition and get laughed at. The IRA shouldn't focus on civilians, point that shit at Eton. Yeah I said it, FUCK EVERY CUNT IN A SUIT, FUCK YOU.

b00mslang
b00mslang

The bible states: "I know oh Lord that to man his way does not belong. It is not for man who is walking even to direct his own steps!"Democracy, we elect tards like this guy to "rule" us and he wants to dictate changes and controls on technology that he is too stupid to understand. Remember; "the internet isn't a big truck, it's a series of tubes." Why do we choose to be ruled by morons. Don't worry Brits, we Yanks have more than our fair share of tards. Both of our jaded political parties are chock-full of them. Our politicians are a commodity. They should be traded like gold or frozen O.J. (oh wait, I guess they are already. Witness how the MPAA and RIAA have bought them and ordered up the so called "Protect IP Act")

disinter
disinter

Damn that FACEBOOK! Before FB there never was any riots anywhere.

Drew Wilson
Drew Wilson

Well, feel free to point out where I said I agreed with the rioters here.Personally, I think I am only pointing out that I don't see how it is really possible to "stop people from communicating" on social media begin with.Don't confuse a neutral position with supporting the other side in all of this.



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