UK's Health Secretary Has The Solution To Cyberbullying & Sexting: Nerds Should Nerd Harder

from the how-are-these-people-in-power? dept

It appears that the “nerd harder” disease has spread across the Atlantic, and none other than the UK’s Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has caught it. In discussing the (frequently overhyped, but still real) issues of cyberbullying and sexting, Hunt has decided that it’s no problem at all, because the nerds can put their minds to it and magically block it:

?I think social media companies need to step up to the plate and show us how they can be the solution to the issue of mental ill health amongst teenagers, and not the cause of the problem,? he said. ?There is a lot of evidence that the technology industry, if they put their mind to it, can do really smart things.

?For example, I just ask myself the simple question as to why it is that you can?t prevent the texting of sexually explicit images by people under the age of 18, if that?s a lock that parents choose to put on a mobile phone contract. Because there is technology that can identify sexually explicit pictures and prevent it being transmitted.

?I ask myself why we can?t identify cyberbullying when it happens on social media platforms by word pattern recognition, and then prevent it happening. I think there are a lot of things where social media companies could put options in their software that could reduce the risks associated with social media, and I do think that is something which they should actively pursue in a way that hasn?t happened to date.?

And I ask myself, how the hell do modern countries allow people so clueless and ignorant into positions of power? How can it possibly be that someone with this much power and authority can’t understand that context matters and that calling for outright censorship without context would be a disaster? It’s the very epitome of the “nerd harder, nerds” plan that comes up so often. “If they put their minds to it, they can do really smart things.”

It feels like all of these powerful people have internalized the flipside of the famed Arthur C. Clarke quote about how “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and interpreted it to mean “tech can do magical things.” But as cryptographer Matt Blaze famously noted, ignorant officials saying “surely if we can put a man on the moon we can do this” is like saying “surely if we can put a man on the moon, we can put a man on the sun.” Some things are not doable, no matter how many nerds you throw at it.

You’d think that people in charge of, say, the healthcare of a nation, might at least recognize when they’re too ignorant to understand the difference between the possible but difficult, and the impossible. Apparently not.

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Comments on “UK's Health Secretary Has The Solution To Cyberbullying & Sexting: Nerds Should Nerd Harder”

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48 Comments
Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

The meaning of is

Isn’t calling a nerd, a nerd, a form of cyberbullying?

Given the way governments redefine words to mean what they want them to mean, rather than what common usage or even the dictionary says they mean, what are they going to define cyberbullying as? Would telling a snowflake that a warm spell is coming in such a way that it hurts their feelz, count, eventually?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The meaning of is

“Isn’t calling a nerd, a nerd, a form of cyberbullying?”

Nope. But..

“Some things are not doable, no matter how many nerds you throw at it.”

Throwing nerds at things they can’t do IS cruel and unusual punishment, victim-blaming and bad manners all at once. I’m disgusted at TechDirt, they’ve gone too far this time. If this idea spreads to the wrong parts of the internet then nerds everywhere won’t be safe from assault-rifle-wielding self-investigating (sic) nuts from flyover states (cd DC pizzeria attack by idiot).

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: The meaning of is

Speaking of the pizzeria right-wingnut, let’s compare the fake news issue with cyberbullying and sexting. Both require similar "nerding" to stop.

The delusional nutjobs spreading the fake #pizzagate story include Donald Trump’s national security advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.

And now after the assault-rifle-wielding "self-investigating" incident, his son is sounding the nutjob clarion call, doubling down on the conspiracy theory. The younger Flynn, who has reportedly served as his father’s chief of staff, retweeted a tweet from Jack Posobiec, special projects director for CitizensForTrump.com, who suggested that the gunman was an actor carrying out a “false flag” operation on behalf of the U.S. government.

No amount of "nerding harder" is going to stop false news when the President-elect, his white supremacist Karl Rove and his nutjob national security advisor is spreading it. But it might have knocked offline any real news site that mentioned Trump’s "Grab her by the pussy" and other comments.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The meaning of is

“Given the way governments redefine words”

What government are you referring to, there are many.
In many western countries, dictionaries are used that are published by the private sector, not government. Perhaps you think government tells the private sector what to put in their dictionaries, you might want to provide some evidence of this or risk dismissal by others.

The snowflake reference and subsequent ramblings are indicative of a confused person.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: The meaning of is

In many western countries, dictionaries are used that are published by the private sector, not government.

A dictionary does not define the meaning of words, but rather records the meaning of words as they are used when the editor writes the dictionary entry. Therefore if you have to argue the meaning of words in any document, get a dictionary edition contemporary with the date of the document.

Anonymous Coward says:

I am not bitter but..

Typical modern politics/management, state how a problem can be solved, and tell those who can solve it to implement the ‘solution’ you have come up with. When the solution does not arrive, and people complain of interference in their lives, they can blame those who tried to implement their solution, and keep their position and power.

Whoever says:

False positives

What these people don’t realize is that the problem isn’t identifying the bullying, or whatever. The real problem is removing false positives.

I could easily identify 100% of all bullying speech, simply by identifying all speech as bullying. Obviously the false positive rate for this would be rather high and the results not very useful.

Then, there is the other problem, which even humans cannot solve: it has been laid out in another question: “what is pornography?” The answer has always been: “I’ll recognize it when I see it”. You can’t adequately define pornography, just like you cannot define bullying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: False positives

“I could easily identify 100% of all bullying speech, simply by identifying all speech as bullying. Obviously the false positive rate for this would be rather high and the results not very useful. “

This is absolutely what they want. Of course said filter will only apply to the peons, the important and special will continue to have unlimited access.

TasMot (profile) says:

If they put their minds to it, they can do really smart things

I’m willing to work on that. Pay me what I deserve for working on the impossible and a budget for 100 of my closest friends to work on it and we will. I mean after all, if we self-identify as nerds and are going to get thrown, we at least deserve a big enough salary for being impugned with labels and sent off to work on an impossible problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Turnabout is fair play?

What would Jeremy Hunt think of this?

“I think NHS need to step up to the plate and show us how they can be the solution to the issue of mental ill health amongst teenagers, and not the cause of the problem,” he said. “There is a lot of evidence that the healthcare industry, if they put their mind to it, can do really smart things.

“For example, I just ask myself the simple question as to why it is that you can’t prevent the texting of sexually explicit images by people under the age of 18, if that’s an agreement that parents choose to put on their healthcare agreement. Because there are pharmaceuticals that can prevent people from desiring to take nude photos.

“I ask myself why we can’t identify cyberbullying when it happens to people covered by health services, then prevent it happening. I think there are a lot of things where pharmaceutical companies could put features in their medicines that could reduce the risks associated with social media, and I do think that is something which they should actively pursue in a way that hasn’t happened to date.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Easy self-censor driven solution

Just set it up that every photo the under-18 individuals send is (without any attempt to determine its nature) CC’d to some very public site, and be sure they know that it does this, and that they cannot change it. Fear of embarrassment will then motivate them not to send the image out to the world. As a bonus, if they send any sexts anyway, you can then charge them for production/distribution of child pornography, because public mortification alone isn’t sufficient punishment.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

oh noes, wait until they find out...

…when they ban the relatively harmless sexting, then the dirty little pervs will get together in meatspace and, you know, have a meeting of the meats…
bound to happen eventually…
*snicker*
dog damn, why is it prudes and moral scolds are so-o-o-o concerned with what EVERYONE else does in their private lives ? ? ?
i really do not give a shit what those control freaks do in their lives, why are they so hellbent on controlling every one elses ? ? ?
could it be they are the 25% of authoritarian shits ? why, i believe that is so…

Tom Jacobs (user link) says:

cyberbullying

Take a look at “Teen Cyberbullying Investigated” from Free Spirit Publishing for real-life stories of teenagers in the juvenile justice system for their posts, tweets, sext messages, and other digital behaviors. Learn from their brushes with the law about online etiquette and avoid getting a record that will follow you into adulthood. –Judge Tom

Anonymous Coward says:

Word recognition? Not a problem. Bullies will simply revert to common words and pointed remarks as insults and either render the whole scheme pointless, or force the entire Oxford dictionary to be added to the list.

Do these people not think before they speak? There’s a mental health problem here, all right, and it’s not the teenagers who have it.

Anonymous UK Resident #5424743871 says:

*derisive snort*

there is technology that can identify sexually explicit pictures

Yes, it can identify many non-explicit things as sexually explicit pictures.

Supposedly (never found out for sure if it’s true) even [low-cost airline] Easyjet’s website has been blocked by an overzealous porn filter in the past, because their colour scheme contains a lot of orange. Which apparently is somehow a skin tone.

These idiots need to stop watching NCIS or Scorpion or whatever is it they base their delusions on.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

http://38degreesmanchester.org.uk/blog/how-private-enterprise-takes-other-peoples-money/

Jeremy “Disaster Area” Hunt is indeed the Minister for Health but he’s a total prat obsessed with privatisation. He’s been advocating for a US-style system (no, thank you) for a while.

While he pretends to care about the NHS he’s actually running it down so he can sell it off piecemeal to his friends. Virgin Healthcare has won major contracts taking over some of the healthcare trusts, which are basically stepping stones to privatisation.

http://www.nhsforsale.info/private-providers/private-provider-profiles-2/virgin.html

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