UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper's Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression

from the 1984-wasn't-a-manual dept

The old joke goes “George Orwell’s 1984 was a warning, not a ‘how to’ manual.” But that joke is increasingly less funny as the UK really seems to be doing everything it can to put in place Orwell’s fictitious vision — just a few decades later. Right after the election a few weeks ago, we noted the government’s plan to push forward with its “extremist disruption orders” (as had been promised). The basic idea is that if the government doesn’t like what you’re saying, it can define your statements as “extremist” and make them criminal. Prime Minister David Cameron did his best Orwell in flat out stating that the idea was to use these to go after people who were obeying the law and then arguing that the UK needed to suppress free speech… in the name of protecting free speech. Really.

For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It?s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that?s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.

It’s a fairly amazing speech where Cameron can — within just a few sentences — both argue for the rule of law and that obeying the rule of law should not keep you out of trouble.

Earlier this week, the Queen gave her traditional “Queen’s Speech” which lays out the legislative agenda for the new Parliament, and it went quickly down the Orwellian path as well. Apparently, suppressing free speech and civil liberties will be done in the name of mandatory “social cohesion.”

Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism. New legislation will modernise the law on communications data, improve the law on policing and criminal justice, and ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.

That first sentence is about the extremism orders, but the second part may be even more troubling. It’s the Queen making it clear that the Snooper’s Charter is returning — but even worse than before. If you don’t recall, the UK government has been trying to pass this bill that would grant the government massive surveillance powers. David Cameron insists this is necessary because he’s seen it work on fictional crime shows that he watches on TV (really). The last major attempt to push this through failed thanks to then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg blocking it. But with Clegg out of the way following the last election, the government is going for the gold in pushing for an even broader Snooper’s Charter including mandatory backdoors into encryption:

In a surprise move, the government is to introduce an investigatory powers bill far more wide-ranging than expected. The legislation will include not only the expected snooper?s charter, enabling the tracking of everyone?s web and social media use, but also moves to strengthen the security services? warranted powers for the bulk interception of the content of communications.

Of course, as we’ve been discussing for quite some time now, such backdoors into encryption are monumentally stupid and counterproductive. They weaken the security and privacy of everyone. And, of course, we’ve already discussed how once one country demands its own backdoors, others will want them as well. And, of course, such backdoors always come back to bite everyone by opening up avenues for malicious and nefarious attacks — no matter how often law enforcement insists that it can keep things safe. You are, by definition, opening up a vulnerability. And it will lead to less safety and security.

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Comments on “UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper's Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression”

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tqk (profile) says:

Re: the queen is really hitler

The Queen’s speech is actually written by the government in power. She just reads it. I don’t understand why they still want to do it that way (as in “Royalty?!? WTF for?!?”), but that’s their problem.

Lots of people think British royalty are entertaining, so maybe it’s justifiable PR. It brings in the marks (or dollars).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

Blue cities, i’ll assume you mean cities with democratic mayors since “blue cities” is a kinda bullshit made up and unmeasured term.
you mean like:
New York
San Francisco
San Diego
Los Angles
San Antonio

In fact, of the 50 largest cities in the US, only 13 have republican mayors.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

…Maybe it would be better if they went back to a strict monarchy?…

Or at least a monarchy that has the guts to nullify by decree any action of the PM or legislature. Supposedly the UK had that at one time but if Her Majesty has actually done that I’ve never heard about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Social Cohesion

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

anonymous Dutch coward says:


as far as I am aware sharia is law for UK citizens. yes, roll that one around in your mouth. for a large minority in the UK sharia law used in instances like family law (think inheritance) can be the law and be above British law. in that respect Cameron is right. they have been “a passively tolerant society” for too long, as in “weak and decadent”. I am not saying that he is right on all fronts, because most is nonsense, but he absolutely right if he wants to fight the people who are out to destroy British society. Kudos to him!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sharia

Please go to one of these “No Go Zones” where they enforce this Sharia Law and video tape your experiences for all to see. Bonus points if you interact with the people you find there and ask them about their acceptance of Sharia Law and why outsiders should not be allowed there.

Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re: sharia

British Prime Minister David Cameron ripped Emerson as only an old Etonian can: “When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot.” when referring to Steve Emerson, who made up “No go zones”.

At least Cameron has some sensory apparatus.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Focus People

The first paragraph is about the past, the last paragraphs are about the future…nothing about destroying British society.

“That means actively promoting certain values.”

“Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.”

“We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”

tqk (profile) says:

Re: sharia

they have been “a passively tolerant society” for too long, as in “weak and decadent”.

That statement speaks volumes. “Passively tolerant” == “weak and decadent.” Perhaps Britain would have been better off if it had lost the Battle of Britain. Be careful what you wish for.

I always believed that in a democracy the people decided which way to go, but you’re saying it would be better if the elected representatives of that democracy just hands down marching orders which prescribe the correct course, and the rest go to the tower? Seig heil!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: sharia

They tried this in my country (Canada) too, in the center of the universe, Ontario (they legalized homosexual marriage in 1997 in Ontario, ahead of the curve), then muslims tried to have a seperate Shariah court. That wasn’t allowed, and we had the Liberal party in extreme majority in Ottawa (like 90% of the seats).

Anonymous Coward says:

The thing about extremism...

There’s the old joke that you’d only send your kids to a school where everyone’s above average… well, in any society, you’ve got average morals/ethics, and then bounding each end are extreme morals/ethics.

If you pass a law that outlaws extreme morals/ethics, what actually happens?

You trim off the extremes, making the spread a bit smaller. At which point, there are new extremes.

This will keep happening until everyone who isn’t in jail is average — and with no above/below average morals/ethics in the society, you have no above/below average performers.

And so dies the society. It wouldn’t even survive like it does in 1984, unless those who are extremists have two paths to take: go to jail, or be selected by like-minded extremists to lead the society.

tqk (profile) says:

"That means actively promoting certain values. "

Translation: “That means actively attacking certain values.”

C’mon David, don’t mince terms. You’re embarking on a Holy War, a Crusade of sorts, aimed at anyone who disagrees with your vision of what Britain should be and what it should stand for. I thought Britain was a democracy, but I see you’ve had enough of that farcical charade.

The word for that is tyranny. I look forward to seeing you hanging by your feet from a meathook. Have a short life.

Anonymous Coward says:

Reading what Cameron said made me cringe and if I could imagine if this was said in the US there’d be major backlash moments after the speech was done. I’ll say this in his defense though, at least he’s being MOSTLY honest. Had to dock a few points for the tripe “Think Of The Children” aspect.

Bet those people who voted Torie are feeling PRETTY stupid right now and according to recent polls they’re already pissed off. Good job Cammy-Boy! Only a few weeks in and already you’ve pissed off most of the UK! Bravo, BRAVO!

Anonymous Coward says:

So when are they gonna officially change flag to that Nazi/Nordic one like in V for Vendetta ?

I would be leaving the country if British. I got a slush fund in case Canada becomes a fascist hole too, somewhere like the Fijii islands, I’ll drink kava kava all day and pass out probably as far as possible from another country as possible when I’m there thinking about it.

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