UK Government Goes Full Orwell: Snooper's Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression

from the 1984-wasn't-a-manual dept

The old joke goes "George Orwell's 1984 was a warning, not a 'how to' manual." But that joke is increasingly less funny as the UK really seems to be doing everything it can to put in place Orwell's fictitious vision -- just a few decades later. Right after the election a few weeks ago, we noted the government's plan to push forward with its "extremist disruption orders" (as had been promised). The basic idea is that if the government doesn't like what you're saying, it can define your statements as "extremist" and make them criminal. Prime Minister David Cameron did his best Orwell in flat out stating that the idea was to use these to go after people who were obeying the law and then arguing that the UK needed to suppress free speech... in the name of protecting free speech. Really.
For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance.

This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.

We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.
It's a fairly amazing speech where Cameron can -- within just a few sentences -- both argue for the rule of law and that obeying the rule of law should not keep you out of trouble.

Earlier this week, the Queen gave her traditional "Queen's Speech" which lays out the legislative agenda for the new Parliament, and it went quickly down the Orwellian path as well. Apparently, suppressing free speech and civil liberties will be done in the name of mandatory "social cohesion."
Measures will also be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism. New legislation will modernise the law on communications data, improve the law on policing and criminal justice, and ban the new generation of psychoactive drugs.
That first sentence is about the extremism orders, but the second part may be even more troubling. It's the Queen making it clear that the Snooper's Charter is returning -- but even worse than before. If you don't recall, the UK government has been trying to pass this bill that would grant the government massive surveillance powers. David Cameron insists this is necessary because he's seen it work on fictional crime shows that he watches on TV (really). The last major attempt to push this through failed thanks to then Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg blocking it. But with Clegg out of the way following the last election, the government is going for the gold in pushing for an even broader Snooper's Charter including mandatory backdoors into encryption:
In a surprise move, the government is to introduce an investigatory powers bill far more wide-ranging than expected. The legislation will include not only the expected snooper’s charter, enabling the tracking of everyone’s web and social media use, but also moves to strengthen the security services’ warranted powers for the bulk interception of the content of communications.
Of course, as we've been discussing for quite some time now, such backdoors into encryption are monumentally stupid and counterproductive. They weaken the security and privacy of everyone. And, of course, we've already discussed how once one country demands its own backdoors, others will want them as well. And, of course, such backdoors always come back to bite everyone by opening up avenues for malicious and nefarious attacks -- no matter how often law enforcement insists that it can keep things safe. You are, by definition, opening up a vulnerability. And it will lead to less safety and security.

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  • identicon
    Guardian, 28 May 2015 @ 9:31am

    the queen is really hitler

    shhh don't tell no one mmmmmk...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Baron von Robber, 28 May 2015 @ 9:40am

      Re: the queen is really hitler

      Adolf Elizabeth Hitler?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 7:40pm

      Re: the queen is really hitler

      The Queen's speech is actually written by the government in power. She just reads it. I don't understand why they still want to do it that way (as in "Royalty?!? WTF for?!?"), but that's their problem.

      Lots of people think British royalty are entertaining, so maybe it's justifiable PR. It brings in the marks (or dollars).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 9:45am

    "Social cohesion"

    So basically we're no different from Russia, China and other nationalist, collectivist countries.

    Ah, well Liberalism had a good run.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:37am

      Re: "Social cohesion"

      Liberalism huh ... when was that again?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:48am

        Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

        Good run? Look at all the blue cities in the US and tell me about the crime rates, poverty, corruption and massive social spending that hasn't put a dent in any of it. Liberal policies lead to ruin as evidenced by this yet people keep voting that way.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Chris Rhodes (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 11:50am

          Re: Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

          The word "liberal" hasn't always meant "progressive nanny-statist". The fact that it eventually morphed into the sad state it is today is why the term "libertarian" was coined.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 12:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

          social democrat!=liberal

          It's peculiar how many Americans see their idiosyncratic definition of liberal as representative of the word's place in a global context, rather than the exception.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 1:01pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

          Blue cities, i'll assume you mean cities with democratic mayors since "blue cities" is a kinda bullshit made up and unmeasured term.
          you mean like:
          New York
          Chicago
          Boston
          Portland
          Seattle
          San Francisco
          San Diego
          Los Angles
          Austin
          San Antonio
          Detroit
          Miami

          In fact, of the 50 largest cities in the US, only 13 have republican mayors.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          tqk (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 7:58pm

          Re: Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

          I am so SICK of you red team vs. blue team partisan idiots! Who is it that's desperate to keep the NSA's illegal ability to spy on all of you despite the 4th amendment? That would be the leader of the senate, Mitch McConnell, GOP!

          Just die already, you silly twat!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2015 @ 12:47am

          Re: Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

          You're being facetious, right?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 11:54am

        Re: Re: "Social cohesion"

        sorry, meant the small "l" liberalism

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 9:47am

    i don't care when you were born, you've lived too long.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    nasch (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 9:57am

    "For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone."

    I actually lol'd. It's amazing anyone would actually say this out loud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      MarcAnthony (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 1:46pm

      Re:

      When I read Cameron's statement, I cringed, and I don't even live in the UK. It sounds ominously dystopian. He might as well have said: "For too long, your government has tolerated you and your different ideals. Those times are over. You'd better get with the program and conform."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 28 May 2015 @ 10:00am

    Maybe it would be better if they went back to a strict monarchy?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 2:47pm

      Re:

      ...Maybe it would be better if they went back to a strict monarchy?...

      Or at least a monarchy that has the guts to nullify by decree any action of the PM or legislature. Supposedly the UK had that at one time but if Her Majesty has actually done that I've never heard about it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Shadow Firebird, 28 May 2015 @ 3:22pm

        Re: Re:

        There is a nice little clip on YouTube somewhere of the Queen's Speech (where she says what 'her' government will be doing). When she gets to the bit about the human rights act there is a very brief pause, which you could easily interpret as a frustrated sigh…

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2015 @ 12:50am

          Re: Re: Re:

          She's probably tired of this bullshit and wants to die.

          I mean, I guess I'd like my face on the 20 canadian dollars bill for just a little less time too.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Nov 2015 @ 9:06am

        Re: Re:

        She hasn't ever done that. The reason is that although in the UK we don't have a strictly codified constitution; there exists a concept of a finely tuned constitutional balance. If the Queen was to nullify anything that had passed through Lords; she wouldn't be Queen for very long.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:00am

    Social Cohesion

    "Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology—where each worker may bloom, secure from the pests purveying contradictory truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death, and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous Dutch coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:03am

    sharia

    as far as I am aware sharia is law for UK citizens. yes, roll that one around in your mouth. for a large minority in the UK sharia law used in instances like family law (think inheritance) can be the law and be above British law. in that respect Cameron is right. they have been "a passively tolerant society" for too long, as in "weak and decadent". I am not saying that he is right on all fronts, because most is nonsense, but he absolutely right if he wants to fight the people who are out to destroy British society. Kudos to him!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 10:23am

      Re: sharia

      "he absolutely right if he wants to fight the people who are out to destroy British society."

      So he wants to save British society by destroying British society.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:41am

      Re: sharia

      Please go to one of these "No Go Zones" where they enforce this Sharia Law and video tape your experiences for all to see. Bonus points if you interact with the people you find there and ask them about their acceptance of Sharia Law and why outsiders should not be allowed there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Baron von Robber, 28 May 2015 @ 11:34am

        Re: Re: sharia

        British Prime Minister David Cameron ripped Emerson as only an old Etonian can: "When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools' Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot." when referring to Steve Emerson, who made up "No go zones".

        At least Cameron has some sensory apparatus.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:54am

      Focus People

      The first paragraph is about the past, the last paragraphs are about the future...nothing about destroying British society.

      "That means actively promoting certain values."

      "Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality."

      "We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Just Another a Anonymous Troll, 29 May 2015 @ 10:15am

        Re: Focus People

        Have you actually read what he says? It's pretty much destroying British rights as they know it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Shadow Firebird, 28 May 2015 @ 11:22am

      Re: sharia

      No-one in Britain is subject to Sharia law, unless they voluntarily choose to be. You're spouting racist nonsense.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Rapnel (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 7:45pm

      Re: sharia

      Don't look now but that darling society of yours seems to be destroying itself from the inside out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 8:24pm

      Re: sharia

      they have been "a passively tolerant society" for too long, as in "weak and decadent".

      That statement speaks volumes. "Passively tolerant" == "weak and decadent." Perhaps Britain would have been better off if it had lost the Battle of Britain. Be careful what you wish for.

      I always believed that in a democracy the people decided which way to go, but you're saying it would be better if the elected representatives of that democracy just hands down marching orders which prescribe the correct course, and the rest go to the tower? Seig heil!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 8:33pm

        Re: Re: sharia

        I mean, has it never occurred to you that maybe the British people want Britain to change because they don't like the way Britain does many things? Most of us are very happy with many changes that have happened in our lifetimes, but you think the brakes need to be applied, because change is bad.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      RM, 28 May 2015 @ 11:15pm

      Re: sharia

      Sorry, that's not true at all. UK law is the law of the UK; sharia law is not even vaguely, not even a little tiny bit, the law in the UK.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2015 @ 12:53am

      Re: sharia

      They tried this in my country (Canada) too, in the center of the universe, Ontario (they legalized homosexual marriage in 1997 in Ontario, ahead of the curve), then muslims tried to have a seperate Shariah court. That wasn't allowed, and we had the Liberal party in extreme majority in Ottawa (like 90% of the seats).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Steve, 3 Jun 2015 @ 1:52am

      Re: sharia

      That is not true. You can (voluntarily) choose to have some things dealt with under Sharia in the UK, but it is not above British law. Please don't tell lies.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:14am

    Safety and security... for those in power.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    CK20XX (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 10:14am

    At this point, the UK government is practically begging a group of hactivists to break into the government servers the day these new laws go into effect. Preferably while the theme to Lupin the Third plays in the background.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:16am

    Well, so much for the famous line:

    If you obey the law, you have nothing to fear.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:27am

    The thing about extremism...

    There's the old joke that you'd only send your kids to a school where everyone's above average... well, in any society, you've got average morals/ethics, and then bounding each end are extreme morals/ethics.

    If you pass a law that outlaws extreme morals/ethics, what actually happens?

    You trim off the extremes, making the spread a bit smaller. At which point, there are new extremes.

    This will keep happening until everyone who isn't in jail is average -- and with no above/below average morals/ethics in the society, you have no above/below average performers.

    And so dies the society. It wouldn't even survive like it does in 1984, unless those who are extremists have two paths to take: go to jail, or be selected by like-minded extremists to lead the society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 12:45pm

      Re: The thing about extremism...

      "If you pass a law that outlaws extreme morals/ethics, what actually happens?"

      Since such laws are themselves acts of extremism, if this were a just universe than the legal system itself would come to a screeching halt due to runaway recursion.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:29am

    This isn't for protecting peasants

    And it will lead to less safety and security.

    It isn't about safety and security for the peasants; its about safety and security for the ruling class.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    anonymous Dutch coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:37am

    7%

    if 7% of your population thinks favourably about ISIS, you have a problem. deal with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:39am

    Irony?

    Isn't this an extremist stance, to eliminate extremism by any means necessary?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 10:42am

    Re: News Dissemination

    Looks pretty good.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mike Shore (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 11:15am

    Doublethink is alive and well in the UK parliament.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 12:06pm

    Ihatemybrain

    This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.

    This slogan comes to mind:
    "Strength through Unity. Unity through Faith"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 3:00pm

    if you want to fight this bill join the open rights group!

    https://www.openrightsgroup.org/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 3:46pm

    Should have let the Nazis have them...

    if all they were going to do was was turn into their own Nazis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Justme, 28 May 2015 @ 6:26pm

    If they did that here. . .

    Many members of congress would meet the definition of extremist's.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 7:36pm

    UK Government Goes Full Retard: Snooper's Charter, Encryption Backdoors, Free Speech Suppression
    Fixed that for you.
    No offense meant to those with an IQ under 80.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 28 May 2015 @ 9:00pm

    "That means actively promoting certain values. "

    Translation: "That means actively attacking certain values."

    C'mon David, don't mince terms. You're embarking on a Holy War, a Crusade of sorts, aimed at anyone who disagrees with your vision of what Britain should be and what it should stand for. I thought Britain was a democracy, but I see you've had enough of that farcical charade.

    The word for that is tyranny. I look forward to seeing you hanging by your feet from a meathook. Have a short life.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve Ayres, 28 May 2015 @ 9:16pm

    Lefty liberals

    Go and live in East London for a year and tell me if you feel the same way.

    Americans are so stupid,

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2015 @ 11:51pm

    Reading what Cameron said made me cringe and if I could imagine if this was said in the US there'd be major backlash moments after the speech was done. I'll say this in his defense though, at least he's being MOSTLY honest. Had to dock a few points for the tripe "Think Of The Children" aspect.

    Bet those people who voted Torie are feeling PRETTY stupid right now and according to recent polls they're already pissed off. Good job Cammy-Boy! Only a few weeks in and already you've pissed off most of the UK! Bravo, BRAVO!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2015 @ 12:55am

    So when are they gonna officially change flag to that Nazi/Nordic one like in V for Vendetta ?

    I would be leaving the country if British. I got a slush fund in case Canada becomes a fascist hole too, somewhere like the Fijii islands, I'll drink kava kava all day and pass out probably as far as possible from another country as possible when I'm there thinking about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 29 May 2015 @ 9:35am

    Bad move UK. Bad, bad move.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Malecon, 30 May 2015 @ 11:22pm

    Where is Guy Fawkes when you need him most?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Jun 2015 @ 5:38am

    In terms of fascism: UK > USA

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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