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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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 14 Jun 2018 @ 8:15am

    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.

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