Torrent Madness: UK Cybercrime Official Argues That File Sharing Is A Gateway Drug To Crime

from the moral-panic-du-jour dept

Perhaps it’s time to make an update to Reefer Madness, entitled Torrent Madness. A totally out of touch and clueless — but powerful — UK official, Andy Archibald, who somehow is the deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit at the National Crime Agency, is going around spouting nonsense about how file sharing is some sort of “gateway” into more crimes for young people today (found via Ars Technica):

“If you think about the illegal downloading of music, of videos and DVDs, I think that practice is more common than we might imagine within the youth of today.

“That’s criminality.

“It’s almost become acceptable.

“That’s the first stages, I believe, of a gateway into the dark side.”

Considering how many people engage in file sharing, if it actually were a “gateway” into further criminal activity, you’d think we’d be in the midst of an incredible crime wave. And yet, here are the stats straight from the UK government:

Obviously, correlation is not causation and yada yada, but doesn’t that look like crime rates peaked just as file sharing really started taking off? If it were truly acting as a gateway to more crime, wouldn’t that be showing up in the data somewhere?

But, no, good old Andy Archibald isn’t troubled by the data. He knows that these evil hacker types are all showing up because of that no good file sharing:

“There are many of our young people, and not only young people, who are becoming highly skilled and capable in a digital environment,” he said.

“It’s important that they put those skills to good use and are not tempted to become involved, unwittingly in cyber criminality.

“They are members of forums and are exchanging ideas in a marketplace that criminals are looking (at).

“They are looking for people with technical skills who can compliment their criminal business.

“They are looking to recruit those people.

“They try to induce and manipulate them.”

Yup. We’ve moved past the “child predators are grooming your kids” moral panic, into the “evil cybercriminals are grooming those file sharers” moral panic.

And, of course, it’s all happening in that scary, scary place known as the “dark web” (boo!)

“When I joined policing … you had drug trafficking, organised immigration crime, firearms trafficking, you knew where to go to sell stolen property, you knew where to go to hire a hit man, frankly.

“Actually, we could control that and we managed that by covert policing, overt policing and an infrastructure around it.

“All of those things I’ve just described are now happening in a digital environment in what is loosely termed the dark web.

“On the dark web we have criminals operating there, trading guns, trading drugs.

“That is where the illegal commodities are being traded.”

But, he insists, the police don’t want mass surveillance. They want “A narrative… that reassures the public.” Funny, then, that it appears most of his speech was a bunch of nonsense designed to scare the public, huh?

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Comments on “Torrent Madness: UK Cybercrime Official Argues That File Sharing Is A Gateway Drug To Crime”

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63 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Talk to your kids, before they do

“There are many of our young people, and not only young people, who are becoming highly skilled and capable in a digital environment,” he said.

“It’s important that they put those skills to good use and are not tempted to become involved, unwittingly in cyber criminality.

“They are members of forums and are exchanging ideas in a marketplace that criminals are looking (at).

“They are looking for people with technical skills who can compliment their criminal business.

“They are looking to recruit those people.

“They try to induce and manipulate them.”

“And that is why it’s so important to sit down and talk to your sons and/or daughters, because if you don’t, they might end up working for the government.”

Uenu (profile) says:

Other possible gateways?

Hmm, file sharing is a “gateway to more criminal activity”? Did they poll every criminal and determine that they had, at some time in their life, shared files?

If that’s the case, then there are far bigger fish to fry. I can guarantee that probably 99% of the criminals went to school. So, schools must be a gateway to criminal activity. For that matter, I can state with 100% certainty that every single criminal had been born, so…

correlation is not causation

Yeah, well if politicians didn’t rely solely on correlation, they wouldn’t have very much to try and start a moral panic with, which they need to advance their own personal agenda.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem is that politicians have a habit of passing laws that create criminal business opportunities .Drug laws and copyright are the most obvious current ones – although the stand out example from the past was of course prohibition.

The reason that crime has fallen in the UK is that many criminal business opportunites that used to exist have been made unprofitable by technology. When every middle class home had a video recorder that cost about a month’s (average) wages and was easily portable then industrial scale house burglary was worthwhile. (The only tiome I have been burgled was at the peak of that era).

Nowadays the most expensive portable piece of tech in the average home costs less than 2 weeks minimum wage so the business model has failed.

The vast majority of crime is (at root) economic – so crime reduction needs to be based economics rather than “morality”.
You are unlikely to stop people from sinning by moral exhortation – but removing the economic incentives might just work.

Richard (profile) says:

Andy Archibald

Andy Archibald, who somehow is the deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit at the National Crime Agency, is going around spouting nonsense about how file sharing is some sort of “gateway” into more crimes for young people today :

Andy Archibald, who as the deputy director of the National Cyber Crime Unit at the National Crime Agency is busy trying to puff his own unit’s importance in the regular round of trying to get more funding.

In other news it was recently revealed that the Pope is (apparently) a Roman Catholic….

ottermaton (profile) says:

Here's right about it being a "gateway", but not in the way he thinks he is ...

This seems very similar to something I’ve thought/said about pot being called a gateway drug. You’re fed all this crap ala “Reefer Madness” about how terrible marijuana is, how it will ruin your live, how it will turn you into some kind of maniac, etc.”

But then, you meet people who smoke pot. And they’re as “normal” as everyone else. Hell, maybe you even try it yourself. And then it dawns on you: “All this time they’ve been lying to me about how bad this stuff is. They must be lying about cocaine, heroin, etc.”

But, it turns out they’re not lying. Too late for too many people.

Crying wolf there about the negative effects of pot is much like the wolf they’re shedding tears over that is file sharing.

DannyB (profile) says:

Gateway to Terrorism!

Why say file sharing is a gateway drug to crime?

Don’t you know you could get so much more traction by saying it is a gateway to Terrorism!

Better yet, just say that file sharing IS terrorism!

Since when is Hollywood shy about going over the top and jumping the shark, creating an implausible spectacle? Add some special effects and claim that file sharing will bring about the apocalypse. That might really move legislators into action on a gateway to nowhere.

File sharing costs the global economy $74 TRILLION — which is way more than the global economic output, but who cares because… FILE SHARING!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Pretzel logic

I found this bizarre enough to single out for ridicule.

“Law enforcement does not want mass surveillance.

“Mass surveillance, high volumes of data we have no interest in, causes us problems.

“A narrative has to be developed that reassures the public.

“I think there’s this sense of Big Brother monitoring and we are all nervous around that.

“Law enforcement have had that capability in a traditional policing environment for many years and have managed it in a very responsible way.”

So, let me get this straight. He’s saying that the police don’t want mass surveillance, but the police put the time and effort into developing and doing it “for many years”. Those poor police are being forced to engage in mass surveillance against their will!

I am guessing that the “reassuring narrative” is that part about how the surveillance that the police don’t want to do has been managed in a “very responsible way” for years, so it’s all good.

I find that entire section the opposite of reassuring. It’s downright schizophrenic. Or, it’s the pretzel logic of someone who is lying. I’m not sure which would be worse.

Anonymous Coward says:

you can blame the entertainment industries for spouting this shit and bribing, in my opinion, those in positions of power, to spout the same shit but even harder. on top of that, when those people who are in those positions of power dont know what the fuck they’re talking about, they have to shout the loudest to ensure theirs is the only voice/opinion heard! the article on torrentfreak today shows the opinion of those in control in the EU and that is not only a complete turnaround of this idiots views, but the only sensible one worth considering!
i do not for 1 second believe that these people have any idea what they are talking about and therefore spout what they are told to. they do not, i believe, do so for free!

Anonymous Coward says:

yeah yeah, gateways

Certainly what Archibald proposes is the gateway to a jackbooted totalitarian society to rival eastern Germany or Russia. Where does the UK find these psychos,does he have nightmares of hoards of children downloading tunes and wakeup in a cold sweat over hardened criminals being propagated while from purloined tunes to murder or terrorism? Maybe this all about a new plot for the latest Armageddon movie of the week on TV, just another promotional spoof.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about Andy?

You know, you’d think that Andy Archibald would care a bit more about his professional reputation, where he wouldn’t make asinine comments like he did.

I mean, really, I wouldn’t want to look like such a fucktard in front of, well, everybody.

Why doesn’t he give a shit that the Internet community at large now thinks he’s nothing more than just another dipshit head, who has little if any technical understanding of what he’s supposed to be managing?

Are these guys that far removed from involvement where they actually think what they’re saying is true?

David (profile) says:

In a way, maybe

There is an argument for the idea that any bad law that people ignore, makes them less likely to obey laws in general.

When laws that are overly restrictive or difficult to follow, or let’s just say it, stupid, people start to lose respect for the legal code and use their own beliefs to determine appropriate behavior.

Maybe they need o get rid of stupid laws, so that folks follow the good ones…

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Wow!

That’s a truly remarkable graph if you consider the number of amazingly petty and stupid things that have become “offences” since the ’90s. The “real” crime rate must have plumeted.

And there, perhaps, lies (if anywhere) a tiny, tiny grain of validity in the “gateway to bigger crimes” argument – If you’re going to make blatantly normal human behaviour criminal, it can hardly come as a surprise if those growing up in that environment start finding a certain contempt for laws in general whether they actually break them or not.

Factor says:

"File sharing" is not a gateway! -- SEZ PIRATES.

Gosh, who could predict a pirate pep rally would be the reaction to this clickbait?

You’ve gotten your one-liners off, but let’s see how far your principle holds up:

Is crystal meth a “gateway” to criminal behavior like robbery / theft?

Is bigotry toward gays / blacks / Jews a “gateway” to assaults and murder?

Yes. People don’t just suddenly start doing crystal meth or rounding up Jews into concentration camps.

There’s a slow process of setting morality aside, during which obvious end results are denied by the proto-criminals involved.

To set morality aside is step toward criminality.* Those then gather into gangs…

For instance, nearly every day here you pirates tell yourselves it’s okay to “share” copyrighted content, and go off on paranoid rants over a perceived “draconian” copyright regime!

You’re able to predict, and predictably selective!


* The obvious reply is obvious, but it’s absolute Truth that concern for morality is the measure of human versus animal. But go ahead, pirates, and argue that you’re low as animals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "File sharing" is not a gateway! -- SEZ PIRATES.

Is crystal meth a “gateway” to criminal behavior like robbery / theft?
No, many meth heads get by just fine on dealing or prostitution.

Is bigotry toward gays / blacks / Jews a “gateway” to assaults and murder?
No, but it often leads to a career in politics or law enforcement, so ok, kinda.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: "File sharing" is not a gateway! -- SEZ anyone with 1/2 a brain

To set morality aside is step toward criminality.

Except you already blew that argument yourself by not talking about morality:

Is crystal meth a “gateway” to criminal behavior like robbery / theft?

Taking Crystal meth is not immoral. Stupid, maybe. Illegal, certainly – but arbitrarily illegal. Other recreational drugs are available legally and are often socially accepted, many drugs now illegal were also socially accepted previously (Heroin for example, Opium, E). Clearly drug-taking is not a matter of morality.

Also, much of the problem caused by illegal drug use stems from their very illegality and the crime that surrounds anything declared illegal that people still demand. Look how well prohibition worked out.

Just because you don’t like something doesn’t make it immoral – even if it’s illegal – and making things that are generally normal human behaviour illegal for the same reason usually ends up creating a bigger problem than you started with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lives ruined by crime

The real criminals here are the talented artists creating work so desirable that young people are willing to break the law and abandon the love and respect of their families and peers for ‘just one more hit’. It’s clear that music is destroying the moral fibre of our communities and it’s time we outlawed it and put away the dealers in misery that are performing artists.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's the opposite of a gateway

Drugs are somewhat a gateway to crime if you have an expensive drug habit and have to resort to property crimes to keep your habit going.

File-sharing implies that you don’t have to pay to afford your habitual filing and don’t need to engage in criminal activities to finance your hobby.

Except if you make everything a crime…

Gary Mont (profile) says:

Tried and True Falsehoods

Hey, the same absurd and patently false claim was made against cannabis and it successfully allowed the demonization of the perfectly harmless plant for nearly a century, giving Organized Crime one of the biggest black market commodities in history and insuring the continued graft from organized crime to many generations of politicians, police officers and lawyers.

Andy Archibald is just using an old politically favored technique with a proven track record, commonly called Official Bullshit.

Without the wonders of Official Bullshit, most of the really bad laws would have never been written and most of the last five generations of crooked cops, mob lawyers and career politicians would not have been able to afford their yachts.

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