UK Security Minister Says Only A Drivers Licence For The Internet Can Bring Back Online Civility

from the has-other-terrible-ideas-as-well dept

A bad idea that continues to persist is a favorite of many government officials. The problem with the internet is anonymity, according to them. Wouldn’t we all be better off if we were forced to identify ourselves before using social media platforms? The theory is people won’t say mean, stupid, or regrettable things if their posts and comments are linked to their real names. Several years of Facebook-only commenting systems has proven this wrong.

And yet the idea continues to be pushed by European politicians and DHS officials. The latest to call for an internet drivers license is UK security minister Ben Wallace. His theory is the use of real names and verifiable info will inflict mass civility on the internet, which is currently home to roving bands of ruffians and Wild West content. [Paywall ahead.] [Alternate link to article provided by Alec Muffet, who has helpfully taken a screenshot of the print edition.]

Ben Wallace, a former soldier, said bullying and grooming occurred on social media because offenders believed they cannot be identified. “It is mob rule on the internet. You shouldn’t be able to hide behind anonymity as much as you can now,” he added.

Of course, it will all be so easy to implement in Wallace’s limited view. After all, banks authenticate users’ identities, so it stands to reason people will be happy to turn over names, addresses, phone numbers, and whatever else might be demanded in exchange for the heightened possibility of being doxed, sued, or exposed to overbroad prosecutorial efforts.

Wallace says there’s a damn good reason to demand ID from everyone on the internet: the children.

The former soldier described being part of an uncover investigation into child sex exploitation where they found a children’s chatroom with a 45-year-old man pretending to be a 12-year-old.

He said: “It was like blood in the water with a shark – he was trying to chat up a girl to get her to come and meet him.

Whoa, if true. In the US, cops do this all the time. I’m sure UK cops do it as well, so this may have been nothing more than a couple of cops chatting to each other for all anyone knows. Even if this went down exactly the way Wallace portrays it, the institution of an internet ID card isn’t going to magically make it impossible for 45-year-olds to pretend they’re 12. It won’t even make a dent.

What it will do is harm the internet and its users. The only services that will be able to comply will be the largest. Forums and discussion groups, hosted on free platforms and maintained by members, won’t be able to cover the cost or provide the manpower. If anyone’s concerned about the dominance of the major social media platforms, regulation like this isn’t the answer. It will only further cement their dominance.

And there are plenty of legitimate reasons to maintain online anonymity. In the eyes of officials like Wallace, anonymity is an admission of guilt. “Nothing to hide, nothing to fear,” except for people like undercover journalists, journalists’ sources, dissidents, opponents of authoritarian governments, people who don’t like being pre-doxed by their service provider, security researchers, government employees, people who don’t like being blackmailed, critics of powerful people or corporations, kids who want to keep sexual predators from knowing they’re kids… the list goes on and on.

To add injurious action to an insulting idea, Wallace has another boneheaded idea: intermediary liability for national security threats.

Mr Wallace called on social media giants to take responsibility for their own technology, as he said the UK was spending hundreds of millions of pounds on coping with the challenges of end-to-end encryption, which makes it harder for the security services to foil terror plots.

He said: “There should be an element of the ‘polluter pays’. You contribute to the cost your technology is engendering.”

What even the fuck. This is more than stupid. It’s dangerous. It does very little to combat terrorism and gives the government (and lawsuit plaintiffs) a chance to grab some money from the biggest, easiest-to-locate target, rather than the actual criminals engaging in terrorist acts. This is lazy legislating and it’s a cheap comparison. Terrorists may use encrypted communication services, but it hardly follows that terrorism is the result of companies offering encrypted messaging. Pollution, on the other hand, can be traced back to its source and the manufacture of products. There’s a direct link from manufacturing to the production of pollutants. Offering an encrypted messaging service does not create terrorists or terrorist activity.

Fortunately for Wallace, he’s floating these terrible ideas in the UK’s legislative cesspool, unhampered by the First Amendment or rational national security legislation. This means UK residents, and the companies that serve them, may be eventually forced to fork over their personal info to access Facebook, much like they’re expected to do if they want to access porn.

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Comments on “UK Security Minister Says Only A Drivers Licence For The Internet Can Bring Back Online Civility”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Shut up you insufferable prat.

Perhaps your people would be more civil if there was reform that kept the rich & powerful from getting super-injunctions to try and hide their crimes, or if those who conspired to cover up DECADES of child abusers with power got punished.

And you have joined in the chorus of someone else needs to be responsible for paying for it, you bloody moron.

How about we cut your pay & use the savings to hire someone who can do your job without pandering to hysteria trying to keep a grip on power in a nation that’s trying to to be the moral beacon while hiding how many children they helped facilitate into the greedy arms of rich & powerful paedophiles!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I was assaulted when having a public disagreement with a stranger. It came out of nowhere, no hint it would come to blows, not even yelling at each other, there were cameras all over and it did nothing for deterrence.

Being identifiable doesn’t matter, people are still going to do crazy shit. Why does the death penalty in countries that have it do next to nothing for deterrence, despite the extreme nature of the punishment?

This is just an excuse to control speech. The thousands of people at the last Tommy Robinson march aren’t cretins about what’s going on in the UK, so maybe the government thinks they’ll have to arrest them all for online hate speech instead, then?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“The thousands of people at the last Tommy Robinson march aren’t cretins about what’s going on in the UK”

They actually are. They’re defending a criminal who defied orders that were put into place to avoid wasting time and costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds. The order was not that people could not report, it’s that they could not do so in a way that could jeopardise the fairness of the trial and require a retrial. The only thing to be achieved by what he was doing would be to trigger a retrial. People could report openly on the trial, once it could be done in a way that did not interfere with the trial itself.

It has nothing to do with the content of his speech, it was because he openly defied a suspended sentence for contempt of court and was thus imprisoned as per the law of the land. Whether he was protesting Muslims, protesting bank fraud or protesting tax evaders, he was in contempt of court under a suspended sentence and faced the agree upon consequences.

Agree with what he was saying or not, he was treated fairly according to the British justice system that he was trying to interfere with. Ironically, as it was the alleged interference of the justice system that he was protesting in the first place.

Unfortunately, as Brexit showed, you don’t have to be particularly well-informed to get people protesting, you just have to have the right tabloids spread misinformation.

Anonymous Hero says:

From the article:

> He said: “There should be an element of the ‘polluter pays’. You contribute to the cost your technology is engendering.”

I’m cool with this. I can’t wait to see MP’s and Ministers contribute to the cost their policies are engendering. How much money is lost in identity theft, credit card theft, etc, due to lax security?

> Describing Silicon Valley billionaires, he said: “The phoniness irritates me – it’s, ‘I’m a hippy with a beanbag and, oh yes, there is my superyacht’.

And this guy wants to crack down on bullying? He may as well have said, “I can’t wait to beat the shit out of those Silicon Valley faggots after school!”

Note that Ben Wallace never actually alludes to anything like a driver’s license for the Internet. He wants an ID. In order to obtain a driver’s license, you actually have to pass some tests to show that you at least have rudimentary knowledge of the rules of the road and how to operate an automobile. This isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if policy makers (for example, Security Ministers) should have to pass some tests in order to prove that they know what the fuck they are talking about before they are allowed to talk about it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lack of anonymity has never prevented a douche like Kanye West from jumping on stage and being an ass, never prevented professional atheltes from getting into verbal or even physical altercations, or prevented reasonable frequently displays of lack of civility on networks like Fox or CNN, so the argument things would be any different on the internet without anonymity is refuted by decades, even centuries, of emirical data. The only real purpose for preventing anonimity is to make it easier for people in power to crush dissent and criticism.

PaulT (profile) says:

UK public unsurprised that someone this clueless is in government.

“There should be an element of the ‘polluter pays”

Indeed. So, since the massive upturn in demand for encryption was directly due to the US and UK governments’ polluting activities in terms of our security and privacy – pay up to actually serve us, rather than idiotic schemes that make everyone less safe..

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, it will all be so easy to implement

Presumably this is sarcasm. I recommend you take a look at the ACPI standard. What this guy is talking about is a lot easier than you think, and you have Microsoft to thank for that.

Perhaps your concern might be: “How much of what this guy talking about, is already in place?”.

By argueing against him rather than disecting his claim, you are conceding his premise. Which is that was he is arguing for, does not already exist.

discordian_eris (profile) says:

Privacy? You Don't Need It

"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear,"

OK, Mr Wallace. Please show your dedication to this cause by posting the following things.

1) What are the exact dimensions of your penis? CAD/CAM files are acceptable.

2) How exactly did you lose your virginity? Provide all relevant details, including who with.

3) Do you and your wife indulge in pegging? If so, what size peg do you prefer?

4) Since you have an obvious problem with end-to-end encryption, (ie TSL) please post all of your unredacted financials for public perusal. For the sake of clarity, please highlight all bribes.

5) How much income, and from where, do you derive from housing you own that is not fit for human habitation? Since you voted down a requirement that housing be fit for more than rats.

6) Do you honestly want your children to grow up in the country you advocate the UK becoming? If so, why haven’t you received a good psych consult?

Hillary Clinton says:

So now all you have to do is post under someone’s stolen identity. Wait, more reasons to have your identity stolen. You won’t be able to tell is a poster’s identity is genuine.
So it’s back to being anonymous no matter who you post as, Self correcting.

Maybe we should start now, everyone should pose as their favorite blusterous politician.

John Smith says:

Get someone fired, cost the government a half-million in disability payments and other help once they become a pariah.

Stalk someone, cost employers and the government money as they relocate.

Defame someone, cost the government another small fortune as their business revenue dries up.

This is long overdue. Cyberstalkers will hate this and so will lawyers but that’s too bad.

People who respond with nonsequiturs to cries of injustice don’t get much sympathy when the government treats them in kind. Rely on a system tha relies on fooling others, and others will eventually uose it to fool you or to fool others against you.

It’s not “I want free speech,” but “I want free speech even if it costs the government a half-million dollars when I ruin someone’s life.”

Enough already. Polluters need to pay.

Whoever says:

IDs for all?

The former soldier described being part of an uncover investigation into child sex exploitation where they found a children’s chatroom with a 45-year-old man pretending to be a 12-year-old.

I’m confused. Who should show their real ID in this conversation? This was two adults communicating with each other and both lying about their age.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

The old internet adage:

The Internet: Where men are men. Where women are men. Where children are FBI plants.

Man, governments really don’t like the internet, perhaps because it is a vector of public communication they just can’t control.

The thing is, if they do try to batten it down, it’ll go underground and dark. And I hear they don’t like that either.

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