Nigel Farage, head of the British political party UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party), is certainly an interesting character. UKIP is something akin to a vastly more organized version of the Tea Party here in the United States, in that their policies are typically further to the right of the more common conservatives within the political system. Farage is known to be controversial, to say the least, in part because of some opposition to his party's policies (which probably applies to most leaders of political parties in general), but more so because he often times enjoys getting in front of reporters and cameras and doing really stupid things, such as going ad hominem on a group of politically-minded teenagers who created a satirical mobile game jabbing at UKIP's policies.
A phone app made by school students and featuring a character called Nicholas Fromage kicking immigrants off the white cliffs of Dover has been criticised by the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage. Farage claimed the game, developed by a group of sixth-formers from Canterbury Academy, was “risible and pathetic” and that it had “crossed the line”, despite saying he welcomed the opinions of young people.
The game, which is again clearly parody, is a cartoonish jab at some of UKIP's policies with regards to immigration. Without taking any stand on the issues being discussed by the game, it seems almost too facile to point out that Farage's taking on of the students, particularly going so far as to call their efforts "risible and pathetic", is ill-conceived at best. To leave those attacks with a footer claiming to welcome the input of younger generations simply serves to spotlight how dumb this is. Open dialogue ought to be a politician's best friend, particularly for the leader of a self-ascribed libertarian-leaning party. The school where the teenagers developed the game, thankfully, has the children's backs.
But the school’s principal, Phil Karnavas, has defended the app, which he says is a bit of fun to celebrate “brilliant, traditional British satire”.
"It’s a bit rich, bearing in mind some of the things the members of Ukip have said, for their leader to say they have crossed the line. Mr Farage can’t have it both ways. He cannot expect young people to engage in politics and then criticise what they say when they do.”
Imagine instead if the footer had been the entirety of Farage's response. What if he had simply said that he welcomes the input of younger Brits and suggested that political interest from the young is a good thing? After all, for all of the ribbing in the game, some of it quite sharp, the whole thing was framed by a disclaimer that the point was to create political dialogue. For Farage to pretend like some kind of line was crossed simply makes him look more childish than the children he attacked.
[Farage] said: “Those elements are risible and in many ways pathetic. I think I’m quite well known for having a sense of humour."
Pro-tip: if you have to tell a reporter about how everyone knows you have a great sense of humor, you don't have a great sense of humor.
An investigation into "sexting" of photographs between at least 31 teenagers in Rochester Community Schools is expected to take at least two more weeks, an Oakland County Sheriff's captain said Thursday…
Capt. Michael Johnson of the Rochester Hills substation said cell phones confiscated from suspected students — 24 girls and 7 boys, ages 14 to 16 — have been turned over to the department's computer crimes section for forensic review to determine who sent photos, who was photographed, who received them and if they were shared with others.
Similar concerns are being expressed by others in the community.
Meanwhile, an attorney for a Rochester Hills student and another involved in a similar investigation in Romeo schools, said the activity is much more widespread and she has heard the number is likely double that under investigation.
Attorney Shannon Smith said Michigan State Police are investigating reports of about 10 incidents in the Romeo school system unrelated to the Rochester cases.
"This is happening everywhere, it's over the top," Smith said. "I have been contacted by schools and parents elsewhere in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties who have found similar photos on their children's cellphones and want to know what to do about it.
The Oakland County Sheriff's Department has already confiscated 31 phones. "Ten incidents" unrelated to these 31 cases are being investigated by the Michigan State Police. With any luck, these investigations will continue to turn up even more phones, containing more evidence, and so on, until… well, until what, exactly?
[L]ouisa County High School was transformed into a crime scene, which it remained for the next month. Police cars sat parked at the school’s entrance, and inside, a few deputies who reported to Lowe began interviewing kids—starting with girls they recognized in the pictures and boys who had followed the accounts. [...] For the most part, the kids were “more than cooperative,” Lowe says. One person would give up 10 names. The next would give up five, and so on.
But pretty soon this got to be a problem. Within an hour, the deputies realized just how common the sharing of nude pictures was at the school. “The boys kept telling us, ‘It’s nothing unusual. It happens all the time,’ ” Lowe recalls. Every time someone they were interviewing mentioned another kid who might have naked pictures on his or her phone, they had to call that kid in for an interview. After just a couple of days, the deputies had filled multiple evidence bins with phones, and they couldn’t see an end to it. Fears of a cabal got replaced by a more mundane concern: what to do with “hundreds of damned phones. I told the deputies, ‘We got to draw the line somewhere or we’re going to end up talking to every teenager in the damned county!’ ”
So, at some point, an arbitrary line will be drawn to end the investigation. Charges may be handed down, if only to justify the use of police resources. High school students on the wrong end of the age of consent may find themselves facing child pornography charges. Students more than an arbitrary number of years removed from the age of subjects of the photos in their possession may end up similarly charged.
The temptation is to handle it as a criminal offense, hence the initial instinct of the Louisa County Sheriff's Dept. to view it as a "cabal" or "ring" before it became apparent that there was no unified, sinister force compelling this prolific creation of explicit photos. But despite realizing that trying to combat this as a criminal venture was fruitless, they still use a ridiculously skewed term when discussing sexting.
“I really don’t like the word sexting,” says Michael Harmony, the commander of the southern-Virginia branch of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which covers Louisa County. The term he makes his investigators use is self-production, which is law-enforcement-speak for when minors produce pictures of themselves that qualify as child porn.
Harmony may not be looking to press criminal charges against "self-producers," but phrasing it in this manner makes it clear he's willing to pursue anyone else in possession of this so-called child pornography. Law enforcement entities in other states view it the same way and have pressed (along with concerned parents groups and educators) for the creation of laws that make sexting a crime. In doing so, they have completely subverted common sense.
[I]n most states it is perfectly legal for two 16-year-olds to have sex. But if they take pictures, it’s a matter for the police.
Even if these law enforcement agencies decide there's nothing in this pile of cell phones for them, there's still a chance an aggressive prosecutor will still look for something he or she can make stick -- punishing the children… for the children.
If Lowe made an arrest, the case would land with Rusty McGuire, the main prosecutor for Louisa County. McGuire wouldn’t talk with me about this situation specifically, but he expressed his concern more generally about nude pictures of minors landing in the wrong hands: “What do you do? Turn a blind eye? You’re letting teenagers incite the prurient interest of predators around the country,” fueling a demand that “can only be met by the actual abuse of real children.”
So, to keep teens from being abused by sexual predators, we need to smack them around with the same laws meant to target sexual predators? McGuire pushes a threat that exists only in his mind -- one that turns a mostly consensual and incredibly common act into something that has to be addressed by the full extent of the law ("turn a blind eye?"). Failure to do so tips the balance in favor of child predators, who will only be able to satisfy themselves with actual abusive acts. McGuire was praised here at Techdirt earlier this year for his emphasis on education over enforcement when it comes to students sexting, but a few months removed from the positive Slate profile and he's conjuring up law enforcement's favorite boogeyman to justify law enforcement's intrusion into students' personal lives.
Two different law enforcement entities in Michigan are wading into this situation now, armed with enough info to make headlines but little more. Soon, they'll be swimming in cell phones and trying to find a punishment that fits the supposed crime -- or more accurately, trying to find a crime that meets their desire to see someone punished for a bunch of (mostly) consensual behavior.
from the just-when-you-thought-the-'terrorist-twos'-were-horrible-enough dept
Our nation's singular focus on terrorism has led to various branches of the government and counterterrorism pundits declaring all sorts of things to be warning signs of terrorist activity. Here's a short (but by no means all-inclusive) list of activities that are supposedly indicators of terrorism-in-progress.
Staying in a hotel and doing any number of "odd" things. Like not using the hotel's wifi, making requests in person at the front desk, not bringing enough baggage, using entrances/exits other than the one in the lobby area or turning down room service.
“Parents might see sudden personality changes in their children at home—becoming confrontational. Religious leaders might notice unexpected clashes over ideological differences. Teachers might hear a student expressing an interest in traveling to a conflict zone overseas. Or friends might notice a new interest in watching or sharing violent material.”
That's right, parents. If your child seems moody, unreceptive to your religious leanings, enjoys watching violent "material" or wants to travel nearly anywhere in the world (not a whole lot left outside of the First World that can't be described as war-torn), he or she is your family's very own "insider threat."
Monaco understands this might be troubling for parents to hear, but it's all for the best. Remember, parents: only you can prevent terrorism.
“The government is rarely in position to observe these early signals, so we need to do more to help communities understand the warning signs, and then work together to intervene before an incident can occur.”
The nation's counterterrorism forces are profoundly sympathetic for these terrorist-raisers. They truly wish they could be in the position to catch these early warning signs, but our short-sighted predecessors have prevented them from observing first-hand, thanks to obstacles like the Third and Fourth Amendments.
Not to worry. As Monaco points out, the nation has mobilized parents' neighbors against them, providing them with any number of see-something-say-something venues with which to turn in your confrontational, agnostic, R-rated movie-watching hellspawn -- just in case you don't love America enough to do it yourself.
Oh, and P.S.: the DHS reiterates its commitment to flooding small towns with military vehicles and weaponry.
Monaco said that in addition to citizen alertness, the Department of Homeland Security is increasing its partnerships across the country and making hundreds of millions of dollars in grant money available annually to local law enforcement to help improve anti-terrorism security at the municipal and county level.
Dispatch started receiving calls, including one from Kansas, the FBI, and Fox News who told Zion they heard it from a caller in Washington.
Mark was hauled off to the police station and questioned by Zion police. Considering recent events, one could be forgiven for assuming Mark is still in jail, facing terrorism charges and unaffordable bail. Oddly enough, the Zion police did a little investigating and realized Mark posed a threat to absolutely no one.
“There is no credibility to the threat. He has no weapons and no access to weapons,” he said.
The police took Mark's "threat" seriously, which isn't a problem. Law enforcement should investigate incidents like these to determine whether there's any seriousness to the threat. But unlike other police departments and prosecutors, no one attempted to pursue excessive criminal charges despite being unable to find anything that indicated the statement should be taken seriously.
The Zion Police still charged Mark with a crime, however -- disorderly conduct, a Class 4 felony. This seems excessive considering the police didn't find Mark's threat credible. Most likely this charge was issued as a result of the switchboard lighting up as "concerned" Tweeters nationwide reported the tweet. If you've got the perp down at the station and the FBI is on the phone, you can't very well let him walk away with nothing more than a "turn on brain before tweeting" warning.
Still, things could have been much, much worse. It's been noted that you can't "fix stupid." However, what we've seen lately indicates you can arraign it on terrorism charges.
It's getting ridiculous just how frequently this sort of thing is happening. We had the so-called Twitter joke trial in the UK, in which Paul Chambers was arrested and tried for making a joke on Twitter about airport closures in which he (very obviously jokingly) "threatened" to blow the airport "sky high" if it wasn't reopened by the time he had to fly. We had the story of Joe Lipari, who was arrested for paraphrasing Fight Club on Facebook in expressing his annoyance with employees at his local Apple store. More recently, we wrote about high school kid Cam D'Ambrosio who was arrested and held without bail for making "terroristic threats," where those "threats" turned out to be some immature boastful rap lyrics that, when actually put in context, didn't actually suggest any threats at all.
The latest one involves Justin Carter, a teenager in Texas who made a joke on Facebook where he and some other kids were hassling each other over the video game League of Legends. One of the kids said something to Justin along the lines of, "Oh you're insane, you're crazy, you're messed up in the head." In response, Justin said:
'Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts,’ and the next two lines were lol and jk.
In context, there is nothing surprising or odd at all about this conversation. It's how teenaged boys communicate. They get on each other and mock each other and the response was actually pretty reasonable. One kid called him insane, and he responded by effectively mocking the claim that he was insane. And then immediately followed it up with lol and jk to cement the fact that he was kidding -- which should have been obvious to everyone anyway, even without the caveats.
But... apparently it was not obvious to the police, or to some very confused woman in Canada who called the police.
Justin Carter was arrested the next month and has been jailed since March 27. He’s charged with making a terroristic threat and is facing eight years in prison, according to his dad.
It turns out that Justin's mother actually posted a comment on our last story about Cam D'Ambrosio, which I didn't see until just now, explaining much of his story as well, and linking to a Change.org petition trying to get her son released from prison.
Once again, this situation is insane. We've reached a point where media hype and moral panics are leading law enforcement to seriously overreact to anything they think is a threat. We have no problem at all with law enforcement checking in on situations like this, but they should quickly realize what it is and move on. To arrest someone for such a joking comment on Facebook, and then to keep him in jail and legitimately claim that it was some sort of "terroristic threat," is shameful and suggests that law enforcement is more interested in building up their "stats" than actually making sure that justice is served and the public is safe.
The meaning of words change all the time, and they may be changing faster than ever before. It's hard for traditional dictionaries to really keep up with new words, but linguists are trying to record and categorize all the sounds they're observing. It ain't easy, but it's interesting to keep track of all the ways our language changes as people around the world are increasingly connected. Here are just a few examples.
This was based on research on the hashed versions of 70 million Yahoo users, in which a Cambridge research tried to determine the strength of all of the passwords, and see how different groups did. Some of the other findings:
People with a credit card stored on their account do little to increase their security other than avoiding very weak passwords such as "123456". Unsurprisingly, people who change their password from time to time tend to select the strongest ones.
In terms of more specifics:
Password strength is measured in bits, where cracking one bit is equivalent to the chance of correctly calling a fair coin toss, and each additional bit doubles the password's strength. On average, Bonneau found that user-chosen passwords offer less than 10 bits of security against online attacks, meaning it would only take around 1000 attempts to try every possible password, and around 20 bits of security against offline attacks.
That's surprising, because even a randomly chosen six-character password composed of digits and upper and lower case letters should offer 32 bits of security. Bonneau says the discrepancy is due to people picking much easier passwords than those theoretically allowed. He suggests assigning people randomly chosen nine-digit numbers instead, which would offer 30 bits of security against every type of attack – a 1000-fold increase in security on average. "I think it's reasonable to expect people to have the capacity to remember that, because they do it for phone numbers," he says.
Of course, this reminds me (like so much does) of an xkcd comic on how we've all been trained into selecting weak passwords that are hard to remember, on the false belief that they're strong.
from the you-been-reported-to-the-cyberpolice dept
If you happen to keep up with the latest internet memes (you know who you are), you almost certainly have heard about the whole "ya dun goofed"/Jessi Slaughter saga. If you (lucky you) aren't aware of this, and wish to find out (and, I warn you, you may be better off not knowing about this), all the details are at that link. Frankly, after watching the key videos, embedded below, the whole thing really feels faked for the sake of attention. The whole thing is so over the top that it feels like a calculated attempt to get viral YouTube fame.
As Kenyatta notes:
What's more interesting to me is the fact that just after her very public breakdown, she went back on Stickam a few hours later, completely unfazed by the insults being hurled at her.... The chat is filled with the kind of stuff that parents would call 'bullying,' however, she's totally ignoring it all. Clearly the internet has created a new kind of teenager, able to filter out the kind of noise that would "ruin" the life of folks like Star Wars Kid just years before.
That seemed interesting to me, though, I'm not sure I buy that. First of all, it's a single anecdote involving a single person and (again), I'm still not convinced this is real.
After reading that interview earlier, I had considered doing a post about that claim of the "new kind of teenager," but figured that the "evidence" was so weak, it wasn't worth it. However, I was then amused to look at the submissions for Techdirt, and find a note from reader athe pointing to a professor in Australia who is using the saga as evidence of why the internet should be censored. In other words, he looks at the same videos and comes to the exact opposite conclusion as Kenyatta did.
Where Kenyatta sees a teenager who can filter out bullying and get on with her life, Professor Matt Warren, looks at it and sees a horrible, out of control internet that needs to be censored.
Professor Matt Warren, the head of Deakin University's School of Information Systems, said as long as parents who don't understand the internet kept giving their children access to it, there needed to be ways to control its use.
"You simply can't have free access to the internet," he said.
"It has to be controlled, censored and people have to be held accountable for their actions on it.
"We punish people who drink, we punish people who speed and we have to implement laws to that effect when it comes to the internet."
Thankfully, people are taking professor Warren to task in the comments on that article, noting that censoring Jessi wouldn't have helped. The Australian internet filters certainly wouldn't have stopped the ability of a girl to go online and make some videos. The real issue (if this story is actually real -- but it would apply to others as well), is that this is yet another example of where better parenting, rather than Big Brother governing, would probably help out. And, no, that doesn't mean spying on everything a kid does, but getting parents to at least talk to their kids about what happens online, and what their kids are doing online, along with the risks associated with being online.
We've seen a bunch of stories lately about schools handing out discipline for activities done online, and conflicting court cases on the subject make it fairly unclear where a school's authority to discipline students ends. In the latest case, two sophomore high school girls posted private photos to their MySpace accounts from a sleepover. The photos are described as "racy." While they were set to private, someone copied them, and eventually school administrators saw them and banned the girls from extracurricular activities for a while and also required that the two girls apologize to the (all male) coaches' board. It also required the girls to undergo therapy sessions. All this because they posted some silly photos online? Beyond the question of whether or not the school even has the right to discipline these students for events that had nothing (at all) to do with the school, the punishment also seems to go well beyond the "crime." Kids do silly/stupid things all the time. And, yes, these days there are cameraphones and social networks that make these things easier to record and distribute, but it doesn't change the fact that kids are kids. I doubt there are many adults out there today who didn't do something silly or stupid as a teen. For those of you who are a bit older, imagine if cameraphones and social networks had been around then? Would you have wanted to have been suspended from school activities? The whole thing seems like a huge overreaction.
A recent study reports that while most teenagers describe their online experiences on YouTube as a "treat," most classify their online news experiences as stressful or a "reminder of the world's dangers." Furthermore, most of the teenagers in the study do not actively keep up with the news. Rarely, if ever, do they go directly to the news websites, but rather end up there from portals and news aggregators, and only then if something catches their eye. The report recommends that news organizations help allay teen angst by making their sites better springboards for conversations and being more focused on solutions and problem-solvers. That said, is this really a problem with online news? Perhaps the way traditional news organizations approach the news is actually the problem. How many teenagers regularly watch the evening news? Perhaps news organizations should study why The Daily Show and Digg are so popular, since both present news in a more relevant, palatable, and oftentimes, more humorous fashion. Maybe it's not the online-ness of the news that is the cause of their waning popularity, but rather, the fact that they are at risk of becoming irrelevant to a new generation of news consumers.