SOPA: A Bad Cop's Best Friend
from the doing-55-in-a-54-on-the-information-superhighway dept
Several law enforcement officials have turned a bad situation even worse, trying to suppress these recorded encounters by abusing wiretap laws or flat-out seizing recording equipment and destroying the evidence. Despite the knowledge that any interaction could be recorded, many members of the law enforcement community continue to abuse their power. Ken at Popehat gives a brief explanation why:
A certain segment of law enforcement has always viewed the use of force against citizens not as an ugly necessity in extreme circumstances but as a perquisite of the job. Those cops are not going to change their spots just because everyone's got an iPhone. So now we have pushback.All this adds up to an impunity that grants those with power even more power. These recordings are often the only evidence a citizen can produce, should a situation turn ugly, and the only record of the event not directly under law enforcement control. Officials have found it way too easy to suppress, destroy or "misplace" damning footage captured by police cameras. It's much harder for them to do this with a citizen's recording, especially once it's made its way to the wide-open internet. But that won't stop them from trying. The times have changed, and so have the methods:
Cops arrest people for filming police conduct - whether it's out in public or from the photographer's own lawn. Cops profess not to recognize cameras and pretend they are potential weapons, sending the not-too-subtle message that pointing a camera might get your ass shot. When they think they can get away with it, they destroy cameras wholesale. Prosecutors back the cops up: they prosecute citizens for things like "wiretapping" or "disorderly conduct" when they record encounters with cops (even - or perhaps especially - angry and abusive cops), and they abuse governmental power in an effort to keep government-created recordings secret.
Did you think that the New Professionals would be content arresting photographers in the street? Hell, no. If we've gone digital, so have they. And they know how to work the system. Google reports:So, now law enforcement agencies are trying to clean up their image via some sort of DMCA bastardization. They certainly have no moral reason to be doing this and the legality of the action seems suspect. Obviously the normal intimidation factor is removed completely when delivered via e-form and Google has correctly decided to ignore these requests. But this isn't as far as it goes. Intimidation is very much still part of the plan, as evidenced by the other requests:
"We received a request from a local law enforcement agency to remove YouTube videos of police brutality, which we did not remove. Separately, we received requests from a different local law enforcement agency for removal of videos allegedly defaming law enforcement officials. We did not comply with those requests, which we have categorized in this Report as defamation requests."
Note that Google records not just take-down demands (including categories for executive and police demands premised on "national security" and "criticism," among others), but demands for user identifying information.I can't think of a single good reason why law enforcement would need identifying information of someone who posted a recording of police brutality, but I can think of several reasons why they shouldn't have it. But what if someone were to, I don't know, enact legislation that gave the government (including all of its various outlying entities) greater control over the internet? Ken spells it all out:
So: bear in mind, when you consider measures like SOPA, that giving the government increased power over internet posts and increased ability to seek out user information may not just impact talking about music and movies - it might impact our ability to talk about, and document, police misconduct. Think the police would never seek to abuse such power? Then you're a damned fool.We already know that, if passed, SOPA will be abused to hell and back by the RIAA and MPAA. ICE has already shown that it's willing to abuse SOPA's granted powers even before SOPA is enacted. By writing this into law, the government is granting itself the power to remake the internet in its own image, stifling dissent and ridding its brand new toy of anything unflattering. The internet will no longer be an "information superhighway" but rather a series of tollbooths and checkpoints manned by those easily corrupted by power.