Theresa May Blames The Internet For London Bridge Attack; Repeats Demands To Censor It
from the not-very-subtle dept
It’s no secret that Theresa May is no fan of the internet and will use basically any excuse at all to push for greater censorship on the internet. Going back to the time when she was Home Secretary, she was already slamming the internet as being responsible for ISIS and promising to censor it. Since she’s become Prime Minister it’s only gotten worse. As part of her manifesto for the general election coming up later this week, a key part of her party’s promise was to censor the internet. And May and her friends seem to leave no tragedy unexploited. With the attack in Manchester a couple weeks back, she used it as an excuse to push the plan to kill end-to-end encryption. And with this weekend’s London Bridge attack, she immediately blamed the internet and promised more censorship:
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,? Ms May said.
?We need to work with allies democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.”
Of course, there’s no indication that the internet had anything to do with the attack at all. Indeed, another news report claimed that one of the suspects had to ask a neighbor where he could rent the van that was later used in the attack, leading some to point out that if someone can’t even Google that kind of info… the internet might not be to blame here:
Dude couldn't use Google, but yeah internet safe spaces fault. https://t.co/6sEZbLfcl6
— Aidan Walsh (@aidan_walsh) June 4, 2017
Sky Sources: one of the suspects asked a neighbour where he could hire a van prior to the London Bridge attack
— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) June 4, 2017
Or this perfectly snarky response to blaming the internet for a real world stabbing attack:
I'm confused, is London Bridge a website in cyberspace that had a cyberattack pic.twitter.com/svzCGMrNBC
— Mustafa Al-Bassam (@musalbas) June 4, 2017
In response to all of this nonsense, Charles Arthur has an excellent column at the Guardian pointing out that responding to all this by censoring the internet not only won’t help, it will almost certainly make things worse.
The problem is this: things can be done, but they open a Pandora?s box. The British government could insist that the identities of people who search for certain terror-related words on Google or YouTube or Facebook be handed over. But then what?s to stop the Turkish government, or embassy, demanding the same about Kurdish people searching on ?dangerous? topics? The home secretary, Amber Rudd, could insist that WhatsApp hand over the names and details of every communicant with a phone number. But then what happens in Iran or Saudi Arabia? What?s the calculus of our freedom against others??
Similarly, May and Rudd and every home secretary back to Jack Straw keep being told that encryption (as used in WhatsApp particularly) can?t be repealed, because it?s mathematics, not material. People can write apps whose messages can?t be read in transit, only at the ends. Ban WhatsApp, and would-be terrorists will find another app, as will those struggling against dictators.
Blaming the internet for some angry individuals committing violent acts isn’t just dumb and nonsensical, it’s counterproductive and will almost certainly do more harm than good. It’s a way for May and her colleagues to try to pin the blame on “something else” rather than to admit that they don’t appear to have a real strategy or plan for almost anything. Blame goes a long way, but blaming a tool that people use basically everyday for all sorts of useful reasons, seems really short-sighted.