I just tweeted in rather ironic tone the following:
Plaything of cybercriminal, paedophile, govt – even social-network users for goodness sake! – the web’s breaking up like a rusting old car.
I’d just read this, where under current legislation (significantly, no need for #DRIP here), but with new process and procedure, forty-five police forces have managed to coordinate their efforts and capture 660 suspected paedophiles. I presume mainly online paedophiles (ie paedophiles who use online tools to commit crimes), and do wonder if in the future this won’t lead to another digital divide opening up: that where law enforcement concentrates on arresting a far larger proportion of those who operate online than it will do with respect to those who operate more carefully behind closed doors – and in that far more difficult-to-profile real (or, indeed, historical) world.
I am also minded to wonder how many hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of damaged adults are now hiding within their very private selves the consequences of historical child abuse. Some would argue that the web augments the activity: I would suggest (with no professional background or figures to boast of, mind) that child abuse is probably a pretty steady statement of intent in most societies, and if less than a year’s concerted effort yields 660 arrestees in the UK, how many more criminals in how many other years have, at all levels in society, avoided the same fate?
I don’t, of course, suggest they’ve historically avoided detection. I do suggest they’ve historically avoided prosecution.
Meanwhile, this story popped up a little late in my timeline this afternoon:
Former Labour shadow minster Diane Abbott said her party’s leadership had been hoodwinked into supporting the legislation.
“I believe – I hate to say this because they are all nice people – that those on the opposition front bench have been rolled,” she said.
“All ministers had to do was to raise in front of them the spectre of being an irresponsible opposition, and that children will die if they do not vote for the bill on this timetable, and they succumbed.”
And yet, I would remind you, we have the news already mentioned that, under current legislation, 660 suspected paedophiles can be tracked down and captured. So why the urgency for making the extra-legal behaviours of the past decades entirely legal law right now?
The problem for me with the surveillance state we’re getting is that it mimics very closely long-running debates of a very technical nature between closed source and open source software licence regimes. In the former, we trust that one company knows what it needs to know, and will be able to protect us in a timely fashion from any and every cyberattack. In the latter, when it works at its best, we make the knowledge available to everyone, so that any clever corruption of good intentions can be anticipated, resolved and removed from the system as quickly as possible.
The million eyes which – when they work as they should – work to a common cause.
The dynamics are very similar in the case of child abuse and the passing of #DRIP: allow the relatively few eyes of the security services total access to information, trust they will do with it what they should (we never get paedophile police officers, after all!) and assume that the only criminals acting out there belong to the levels of society who won’t get the right to see the intelligence about each other – or perhaps, more worryingly, won’t get to doublecheck the intelligence about their “betters”.
What we’re getting, then, is the undue exertion of power. What we need is something different. If the worldwide web and the Internet it runs on was a real-world chain of, say, toddlers’ playgroups or young children’s schools, and we suddenly and analogously proposed changing the ground rules as savagely as has been demanded (for example, installing CCTV in all children’s environments; recording every word spoken; registering for years the acts of every carer and parent), all of us would find outrage within our reach. We would see it as abuse (even as it claimed to look to prevent its taking place); we would perceive it, at the very least, as a supremely uncoordinated act of change management; and we would realise how anti-democratic it was all shaping up to be.
Instead, to paraphrase Diane Abbott, we’re all on the point of allowing ourselves to be rolled.
The web and the wider Internet are, indeed, oxidising into uselessness. There’s still time to rescue them, I’m sure. But it’ll require a mighty change of mentality and mindsets from us all: from the voters; from the parents; from our MPs who still claim to represent us; from our leaders and from the led together – from anyone, in fact, who cares about democracy.
For that’s what the #DRIP process really stands for. Unintentionally, perhaps. In reality, all the same.
democracy | rest in peace