Saturday, January 19, 2008

Home secretary in King Canute tribute

Except that Canute knew what h was doing, she doesn't, but I think you'll get my drift.

The Home Secretary is making a series of interviews and speeches on terrorism (Islamic) and the Internet. She was on the Today programme the other day and it was, at best, banal. Even the Nu Labour cheerleaders couldn't hide their disdain with the interviewer interrupting many times because "there was nothing new", to which the Home Sec blustered and carried on. See Prodicus here for more on the interview.

The Register has also taken her to task about how she thinks she is going to control the Internet. Here she is with a typical politicians statement, lots of words but no substance:

The internet is a key tool for the propagandists for violent extremism... Let me be clear. The internet is not a no-go area for Government.

We are already working closely with the communications industry to take action against paedophiles... we should also take action against those who groom vulnerable people for the purposes of violent extremism... I will be talking to industry... about how best to do this.

Where there is illegal material on the net, I want it removed

But look at that second paragraph where I have highlighted. Now, If was going to make a bold statement to my colleagues at work, for instance, I would at least be sure that that I was saying was at least practical by talking to the relevant people, wouldn't you? It is also worth noting that this isn't something new and off the cuff, her boss made a similar speech last November:

Brown went down a similar route in November, saying: "The Home Secretary is inviting the largest global technology and internet companies to work together to ensure that our best technical expertise is galvanised to counter online incitement to hatred"

So even if her boss didn't consult her before his speech, highly plausible given his reputation, she has had 6 weeks or so to get across the subject. Plenty of time to talk to those who know about these things and would have to implement any new laws.

UK internet service provider group ISPA confirmed to the Reg today that it still hadn't heard anything from the government regarding the web terror crackdown. It had asked for a meeting following the Brown speech, but so far has heard nothing

OK, she's a buy person so let's give her the benefit of the doubt because she could have consulted the single biggest ISP in the country, BT, to save time.

In the UK, much of the net backbone is actually controlled by just one company, British Telecom. Asked today if the company had been approached by government specifically in its role as an infrastructure provider - rather than a consumer ISP - a spokesman confirmed: "We have had discussions with the Home Office... no measures have been taken."

Fair enough they have at least looked in to it, so what were they told:

The company added that any new action "would need to be underpinned by appropriate legislation... sites would need to be monitored by law enforcement or an independent body. It is not our job to police the internet".

Ah, so that's it, the Government needs to pass laws and set up an even bigger state security bureau, that's not what the Home Sec said, is it? She wants to continue talking and having a dialogue because that's what politicians do, but I suppose we should be grateful because when they do get round to passing laws they are invariably badly drafted and punish the innocent, as any new laws censoring the internet would because it will be impossible to control the web, as even China is finding out. Here is what the Reg said:

BT and the ISPs could block overseas websites, but almost certainly not as fast as they could be put up. Interesting stuff tends to be mirrored very fast, too; and it isn't hard to use relays such as Tor to effectively browse from a point overseas.

So that's it then, nigh on impossible to do and what they could do would take a huge bureaucracy, yet she still insists that she will be "talking to the industry".

As a final thought, I remember reading a piece from the 70's (before the Internet) by, I think, John Junor, in which the author described how they had been arrested under the Official Secrets act in the 50's for publishing the details of how to make a nuclear bomb. The security services insisted that secrets must have been stolen because the nuclear bomb was a secret project. The author wasn't charged because they pointed out that all the information was in the public domain in various science publications. So even if the control freaks manage to control the Internet there are still 1000's of ways to get hold of the information they need.


Bag said...

We all know that when she means discuss with the industry she means telling them what they should be doing with the veiled threat that if they don't do it then legislation will follow.

The mere fact that the US will provide us a way around it like they do for China will simply cost us more pennies but that seems par of the course for this useless bunch.

The Great Simpleton said...

yes, but its also a case of politicians being cleuless about the real world and not knowing how things get done. they assume that saying something is the same as doing something and that what they say will be implemented, as if by magic.

This might have been the case some years ago when we had a fully functioning civil service, but these clowns emasculated it and now nothing gets done properly.