Jimmy Wales (he of Wikipedia fame) blogged on the Guardian’s Comment is Free section today (25 June) to ask us all to sign an online petition against sending Richard O’Dwyer to America and what it laughing calls its “justice” system. Has he broken the law? It appears not. He ran a site (tvshack.net) which told viewers where they could stream/download movies and TV shows and such for free. If any copyright owners complained about an infringement and sent him a proper take-down notice, he would remove the offending link. He wasn’t hosting any video files on his site – all he did was share links, as do many many other sites on the web.
But the Hollywood content owners, and their finds in the US justice department have decided to “make an example” of Richard – they want to extradite him from the UK (where he was born, lives and goes to University) so they can get him into an American court room where a compliant judge may send him to prison for 40 years!
If you think that’s fair, then that’s cool – go drown yourself in an unflushed toilet. No, that’s not the correct thing to say. Go read Jimmy’s post then, if you agree with me and Jimbo, go sign the online petition. These things do sometimes work, you know. No, really, they do. Sometimes…
I’m not really much of an animal rights kind of person. I eat meat, wear cow skin, etc. But I saw this pic on Facebook and thought I’d share it with any non-Facebook users. So here it is. Make of it what thou wilt.
According to David Taylor-Smith, the UK head of G4S, the world’s largest security company, within 5 years most of Britain’s police forces will be privatized. And what’s more, he thinks no one will be bothered by this! Taylor-Smith said he expected police forces across the country to sign up to similar deals to those on the table in the West Midlands and Surrey.
Taylor-Smith, whose company is in the running for the £1.5bn contract with West Midlands and Surrey police,and is also providing security to the London Olympics, said he expected forces across the country to have taken similar steps within five years . “For most members of the public what they will see is the same or better policing and they really don’t care who is running the fleet, the payroll or the firearms licensing – they don’t really care,” he said.
Well hold it right there, Taylor-Smith! And come on people – don’t any of you remember Robocop? At the moment we have police services who do the job because they believe in it. But private corps like G4S are in the business because they want to make money out of it. Their primary motivation is profit. Which means less properly-trained officers and more Mickey-Mouse “Community Support Officers” who have next to no police powers at all – it means less patrols, less police visibility, more “policing” by telephone. And the profit motivation means officers will be paid less, which in turn means decent officers will have less motivation to sign up. Do we really want to be “protected and served” by the kind of security bozos who currently spend their days chasing kids around shopping malls?
The fact that G4S are in the running for all this privatised-police work, and also have the Olympics security gig, says to me that they probably paid to have “face time” with government ministers and other such officials. You know, the “cash for access” deals that bit David Cameron in the ass not long ago? You wanna be policed by these corrupt shady corporations? Cos I tell you what – I don’t!
Another dramatic twist in the Julian Assange case: Assange has gone to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, seeking asylum. For those unaware of this story: Julian Assange is a founder of the Wikileaks website, which allows whistle-blowers to upload files to the internet anonymously; files concerning US military activity were sent to Wikileaks, who decided to share them with the New York Times and the Guardian; the USA didn’t like that, and some influential US political figures think Assange should be put on trial for treason (even though Assange is Australian and therefore cannot commit treason against the USA); Assange is in the UK, and there is no way the UK will extradite him to the USA; so now an old Swedish rape allegation against Assange has popped back up, and Sweden wants Assange extradited for it (even though the Swedish prosecutors dismissed the allegations as false a long time ago); a lot of people think that once Sweden has Assange, they will send him on to the USA, where he will probably be electrocuted or stoned to death or something…
Assange is running out of appeal options in the UK (the Supreme Court has twice rejected his call for appeal), so obviously he wants to get the hell away from the country. I’m not sure why he chose Ecuador (I would have thought Venezuela or Cuba would be better options), but that’s where he is seeking asylum. It’s pretty obvious the US/Sweden action makes him a political prisoner, therefore he is entitled to political asylum. But what will Ecuador decide? Dare they defy the USA? We’ll see…
The British government is considering legislation that will force websites and internet service providers to disclose the identity of alleged online “trolls”. This is in reaction to the recent conviction of Frank Zimmermann, who apparently sent nasty emails to Conservative MP Louise Mensche and other well-known people including Lord Sugar, military top brass and newspaper columnists. He narrowly avoided a custodial sentence because of his age (60 years old) and “problems” he has suffered. He was given a 26-week jail sentence, suspended for 2 years.
This case stemmed from a message to Louise Mensche after she said that sites like Twitter should be closed down if they were used to coordinate riots, as was alleged after last summer’s riots. Zimmermann sent her a message saying she was “the slut of Twitter” and went on:
We are Anonymous and we do not like rude cunts like you and your nouveau riche husband Peter Mensch. We are inside your computer, all your phones everywhere and inside your homes.
“So get off Twitter. We see you are still on Twitter. We have sent a camera crew to photograph you and your kids and we will post it over the net including Twitter, cuntface. You now have Sophie’s Choice: which kid is to go. One will. Count on it cunt. Have a nice day
Certainly a nasty message.But most regular internet users would probably shrug it off as the meaningless trolling it was. But not poor Louise. She called the police and arranged security for her family. In a victim impact statement she said she had taken the threats seriously. Personally I would advise her to grow a thicker skin if she wants to continue a career in politics. But her case went to court, Zimmermann was punished… and now the government is planning legislation that will force websites and ISPs to help identify anyone who is accused of alleged defamation and trolling. Where is the line that separates free speech and trolling? Who will get to decide that?
I don’t like the look of this. It is a clear attack on freedom of expression, all wrapped up in the Mensche case so we think of (idle) threats to children and are distracted from the fact that the government will be able to easily track down anyone who posts material that the government doesn’t like. This isn’t just ridiculous – it has very dark ramifications in a supposed democracy.
Incidentally, district judge Martin Brown accepts that computer and internet use is a fundamental human right. The judge said he had decided against banning Zimmerman from using a computer. “It had been my intention to prohibit him from using a computer and I accept the human rights angle and I accept the problems of policing that,” he said.
That’s one plus point to emerge from this case. The only plus point. Which is pretty well negated by the prospect of the government’s plans to take away our right to privacy and to freedom of expression. This is seriously bad news.