from the to-london-and-back dept
As is the norm these days, most of this week's comments are tackling the NSA — but for once we're starting out with a detour across the pond. Both of our most insightful comments were inspired by the London police unilaterally shutting down websites for copyright violations without due process or any court intervention whatsoever. Rikuo, anticipating a debate, took first place by attempting to lay some groundwork:
Before certain people come in and vomit their usual idiocy, be aware of these facts.
This is a police body issuing orders to parties to shut down and censor other parties all WITHOUT A COURT ORDER. Not only that, but in the case of EasyDNS, it's a BRITISH police body demanding action from a CANADIAN domain registrar to redirect a website based in SINGAPORE (I did a WHOIS search) to competing websites based in LONDON, or the police would complain to ICANN, a body based in the USA. Again, no courts involved.
Naturally this failed to head off the opposition, and an argument erupted anyway. After it was suggested, as usual, that we're just defending pirates, an anonymous commenter took second place by pointing out the glaring issue with that idea:
You know, if it's so cut and dry that all these sites are "pirate" sites, then why circumvent the court system? Surely, such a black and white issue would be a slam dunk in the court system.
Care to comment on that?
For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with Sneeje, who proposed an interesting line of thinking when it comes to attempts to suppress online criticism, such as the California students who were recently suspended for posting an incriminating image of their principle:
I agree with everything you've said, Mike. What I struggle with, however is how to characterize why we're at this point.
I firmly believe this is a problem of our own cultural making. Teachers/administrators (or government employees, or police officers, or...) that make mistakes are not met with reasonable understanding that “things happen”, but an overwhelming wave of blame that usually results in someone getting fired. Yes, I realize that there are things that cannot fall into the "things happen" category, but we need to figure out how to separate them.
If this principal knew after he was overzealous in his use of force that he could acknowledge he made a mistake, the school would stand behind him and pay for reasonable medical expenses, he would have to learn from his mistake, and everyone could move on, I bet this kind of reaction would not occur. But more likely what happens is, lawsuits happen, the school disavows him and claims it was a rogue employee. This is a situation in which which people will abandon all kinds of ethical behavior to avoid.
If you (I certainly do) long for different behavior from these establishments, we need to ask whether in today’s culture, we are willing to allow mistakes and rehabilitation rather than punishment through firings and the legal system.
(Of course, that's a bit of a chicken-egg situation, since the smug evasiveness of those who land in hot water is part of what makes the public so thirsty for blood.)
Next, we've got Not an Electronic Rodent, who pointed out that the NSA's claim that it prevented "subsequent plots" after the Boston Marathon bombing isn't just meaningless — there's no real reason to believe it's even true:
Except it's impossible to prove a negative, so the best he's in fact saying is "With this massive invasion of privacy and violation of the constitution we can be reasonably sure that there's probably not any other related pieces of the plot out there... until of course we get proved wrong by something we missed in the enormous haystack."
Yeah, that's a great justification... basically, "It doesn't matter whether any of this stuff really does anything as long as we think we can convince people they are safe and we're doing something with the enormous amounts of money we spend."
Over on the funny side, this week's favorite punchline is is the NSA's data center woes. When General Alexander made the unhelpful suggestion that data be stored at a "neutral site", one anonymous commenter knew just the place:
May I suggest that a new organization; the 'Neutral Storage Agency', to be based in Utah, be charged with this assignment?
In second place we've got zem, who responded to the fires and explosions at the NSA's Utah datacenter:
liar, liar, pants on fire
is true after all
Just outside said datacenter, an activist-adopted highway was ignored by the agency with an elaborate version of no comment: "Highway adoptions are not a part of NSA’s federal mission." Our first editor's choice for funny goes to one anonymous commenter who supplied an excellent response to this:
Then leave the information superhighways alone.
And finally we'll take a break from the NSA and drop in on Maryland, where the war on cyberbullying is raging. After a particularly meddlesome organization squeezed special powers for itself out of Facebook, Michael had to applaud its excellent branding:
National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG)
Well, I have to say that is a particularly apt acronym.
Indeed. And na(a)gging becomes much more dangerous when it has the weight of the justice system behind it.
That's all for this week, folks!