We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The watchers do not like it when you watch them…

Our masters do not think it is appropriate for us to observe and record the fact we are being observed and recorded…

That reminds me of of something I posted in 2002.

Get them while they’re young

The Courier reports:

Scottish Government asks eight-year-olds to reveal their Brexit views

The Scottish Government is appealing to children as young as eight to share their views on Brexit.

Critics branded the Twitter plea for youngsters to “work with” the government on a Europe panel “creepy”.

But the SNP administration defended the move as giving those who will be most affected by leaving the EU a “voice in the Brexit negotiations”.

The call by the Twitter account ScotGovEurope said: “Are you aged 8 – 18? Children and young people in Scotland are going to be affected by #Brexit, so we want your views!

“Apply to join the @cisweb Children & Young People’s Panel on Europe to work with @scotgov.”

It sparked claims that SNP ministers are trying to indoctrinate children on the constitution.

The charity says that young people have a “right to be heard in the discussions about Brexit”, which they say is backed up by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Brexit is the single biggest threat to our economy and future prosperity, and children and young people will be most affected in the coming years.

“We are therefore supporting Children in Scotland to establish the children and young people’s panel on Europe and enable them to have a voice in the Brexit negotiations.”

Here’s where you can apply to join the Panel, but first they recommend that you ask yourself

Is the project for me?

This project might be for you if you like standing up for the things you believe in, and
talking about:
• What Brexit might mean for your family and friends
• What people in charge should be doing to help children
• What rules people in charge should follow when they make
decisions about Brexit

I think we can safely say that most Samizdata readers qualify. However this one might be more tricky:

• Why children should have their say on Brexit

The question of whether those who think that children should not have their say on Brexit could or should join the Panel is left for the reader. Oh, I nearly forgot, to be eligible you do have to be aged between eight and eighteen. Reassuringly,

You don’t need to know much about Brexit to apply. We will share information with you to
help you to take part.

Anyone know how the new EU internet censorship & link tax law will affect the UK?

According to Lucian Armasu of Tom’s Hardware, in one week’s time I might no longer be able to link to Lucian Armasu of Tom’s Hardware and quote him like I’m about to do. Or have I misunderstood? I hope I have, because this sounds serious:

EU Expected To Pass Censorship Machines, Link Tax On June 20

As soon as June 20, next week, the European Parliament will vote a draft legislation proposed by the European Commission (EU’s executive body). Critics have attacked the proposal as being quite extreme because it could impact many digital industries too severely.

Censorship Machines (Article 13)

One of the biggest issues with the new EU copyright reform proposal is the Article 13, which mandates that websites that accept user content (anything from videos to online comments) must have an “upload filter” that would block all copyrighted content that’s uploaded by users. Critics, such as Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Julia Reda, have also called upload filters “censorship machines.”

Under the censorship machine proposal, companies would be required to get a license for any copyrighted content that is uploaded to their site by its users. In other words, websites would be liable for any content their users upload to the site. It goes without saying that this could significantly hamper innovation on the internet.

For instance, YouTube or a site like it, probably wouldn’t even exist today if the site would have been liable for what users uploaded from day one.

Link Tax (Article 11)

The “link tax” proposal in Article 11 of the copyright reform directive is another idea that’s not just seemingly bad, but it has also failed in countries such as Spain and Germany, where it has already been attempted. Instead of getting companies such as Google or other publishers to pay for the links, or article excerpts and previews, those companies simply stopped linking to content coming from Germany and Spain.

To make matters worse, the EC will allow EU member states to decide for themselves how the link tax should work. This seems contrary to the Commission’s “Digital Single Market” objective, because it will create significant complexity for all online publishers operating in the EU. They will have to abide by all the different copyright rules in the 27 member states. Existing fragmented copyright laws in the EU is one of the reasons why services such as Netflix took so long to arrive in most European countries, too.

Reda believes that a link tax would significantly reduce the number of hyperlinks we see on the web, which means websites will be much less connected to each other. Additionally, the link tax could boost fake news, because real publishers may require others to pay for linking to its content, but fake news operations evidently will not. These groups will want their content to be spread as easily as possible.

Reda also said that the link tax would be in violation of the Berne Convention, which guarantees news websites the right to quote articles and “press summaries.”

I have heard of Julia Reda MEP before. She sits with the Greens in the EU Parliament but don’t hold that against her; she is actually a member of the Pirate Party. She is fighting the good fight.

Samizdata quote of the day

At the end of a week in which the House of Commons defeated Labour’s draconian plans to regulate the press, the Tories revealed their own draconian plans to regulate the internet. The culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has pledged to make Britain ‘the safest place in the world’ to be online. But when the world’s ‘safest’ internet is currently found in China, where access is heavily restricted and censored by the state, it becomes clear how terrifying the government’s safety agenda really could be.

Fraser Myers

Press freedom lives another day

Earlier today the Press Gazette reported,

Guardian distances itself from ‘anti-press’ Data Protection Bill amendments which would exclude title from paying punitive legal costs

Peers’ Section 40 amendments to the bill, which would see publishers pay both sides’ legal costs in data protection disputes, win or lose, have been slammed by many publishers as “anti-press”.

Guardian News and Media has said it has written to all MPs making clear that it disagrees with “attempts to impose a selective sanction on the media” ahead of a Commons vote later today.

MPs will vote on an amendment, tabled by deputy Labour leader Tom Watson, this afternoon.

As it stands, news organisations signed up to a state-sponsored regulator – currently only Impress – would avoid the cost penalties.

You did read that right. Tom Watson’s amendment to Section 40 would have meant that newspapers refusing to join Max Moseley’s pet* regulator Impress would have been liable for costs when sued for libel even if they won the case. In recent years the Guardian has not often lived up to its name. But I am glad to note that even they balked at such blatant perversion of the justice system.

In the event Watson declined to put his amendment to a vote, and Ed Miliband’s less shameless but still repressive amendment regarding a second Leveson enquiry into press regulation was defeated.

Perhaps that’s the end of it, perhaps not. This monster has been apparently killed before but did not stay dead. I do not know what stage of the horror movie we are at.

*Impress is funded by Mosley. As is Watson.

Facebook isn’t a monopoly and doesn’t need an anti-trust hit or regulation

I have been a user of Facebook for about a decade now and, to some degree, have grown weary of it. To some extent I have become worn down by the constant flow of outrage and venting on its pages from friends and acquaintances, and have started to see more signs of this sort of behaviour myself. I think Facebook is starting to become toxic, so I decided yesterday to go on a Facebook sabbatical, and do old fashioned stuff like read books, tend to my terrace garden and get out and about a lot more instead. And I suspect I’m not unique.

These thoughts of mine come up because there is mounting pressure, it seems, for lawmakers in Washington DC or other places to “do something” about Facebook following revelations about the use/misuse of users’ private data. My brief take on this is that anyone using Facebook should assume as a starting point that they are on a public forum, and exercise due care and attention. (I don’t use its messenger function and prefer Whatsapp instead, or indeed, good old email.) And no-one is forcing me to use Facebook. It may be inconvenient in some ways to give it the cold shoulder, but no more.

With that in mind I reject this sort of argument, in the Wall Street Journal, which ought to know better:

Facebook Inc.’s climb to the pinnacle of business success was nurtured by a grand policy experiment: that a light regulatory touch would turbocharge innovation and make consumers wealthier and happier. Companies who mistreated their customers would succumb to competitors, or be punished with rules already on the books.

The events of the last few months suggest the experiment may have run its course. It has left Facebook effectively an unregulated monopoly and despite founder Mark Zuckerberg’s latest apologies, the company has little economic incentive to change its ways. Its business is to sell its users’ attention to advertisers and thus it must keep pushing the boundaries on privacy, while the paucity of competition limits the consequences if it goes too far. If policy makers want to change that calculus—a big if—they will either have to enact tougher regulation, or use antitrust authority to nurture more competition.

There is no need to re-run the mistaken anti-trust wars against the Standard Oils or Microsofts of the past (both largely unjustified). Facebook will, unless it changes significantly in my view, be threatened most effectively by competition, as has been the case down the decades. The cycle is always the same: we are told that a firm is “too big” or a monopolist and that something must be done about it; and about the same time, new competitors and business models are taking form so that by the time the government action occurs, the new business models are already pushing into the field. This is the classic “creative destruction” of the free market and I don’t expect the situation with Facebook to be any different from earlier business episodes.

One final thought: the complaints about Facebook, a social media platform that was born in US higher education dorm-rooms, has all the trappings of a classic “First World” problem. In Syria, North Korea or Venezuela, I doubt very much that the locals’ main concerns are about people saying mean things on Facebook.

Here is a good take on the issue by Robert Tracinski.

Samizdata quote of the day

I am not worried as much about ‘surveillance capitalism’ as ‘surveillance government’. The former is only a problem because it is one backdoor away from the latter. I don’t use Google or Facebook, but sadly I can’t stop ‘using’ my government.

Perry de Havilland

Samizdata quote of the day

In a recent interview, PayPal founder Peter Thiel spoke of a ‘totalitarian’ streak that exists in many of the tech titans. Evidence suggests he might be right. If so, are we closer to China’s ‘Social Credit System‘ than we realize?

Jonathan Miltimore

A ‘Fourth Amendment’ is badly needed, back in the Old Country

King George III’s troops and excise men outraged many of the colonialists (AIUI) with their searches and seizures, leading to the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Back in old England, no such definitive right exists, so the Queen’s men may find you not so secure in your person, and may make ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’, you might conclude.

I call my first ‘witness’:

A prisoner suspected of hiding drugs by swallowing them has been sent to hospital after managing not to defecate for nearly seven weeks.

#Poowatch ends in VICTORY for suspected drug dealer as he’s released on bail after 45 DAYS without going to the toilet

Yes, the unfortunate Mr Lamarr Chambers was held as a prisoner for 45 days by Essex Police, hoping that he will drop himself in it, as it were, as he was suspected of having swallowed an item which would eventually emerge, and which might incriminate him on drugs charges (and I note, we don’t have a Fifth Amendment here either, but we do have some rules of evidence against self-incrimination).

The story so far:

The 24-year-old from Brixton, South London, was held on January 17 and appeared in court the next day.

At that hearing, and in seven subsequent hearings, the court authorised the further detention of Mr Chambers under section 152 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 to enable him to pass drugs he was suspected to have inside him.

So a Court has authorised this epic buttock-clenching saga, under legislation dating from Mrs Thatcher’s period in office.

However, the police, presumably feeling themselves up against a brick wall, relented.

On Monday the decision was taken by Deputy Chief Constable BJ Harrington, following medical and legal advice, to release Mr Chambers from custody.
The Crown Prosecution Service discontinued the charges against Mr Chambers in relation to possession with intent to supply a Class A drug and driving matters.
He was immediately rearrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of a Class A drug and released on bail and then taken by police car, in company with a medical professional, to hospital for treatment.

I can’t help but be disgusted by a country in which a police force can comment on Twitter about a prisoner’s bowel movements, or lack thereof.

Perhaps we need a change in the law? No holding people until evidence emerges, but charge on the evidence lawfully and properly gathered.

Or perhaps Mrs May might suggest that the Crown will be able to seek a writ of habeus caco, ordering a prisoner to defecate?

I suspect that there’s only one thing Mr Chambers needs now more badly than the Fourth Amendment.

And what do the police say?

‘We will also not shy away from talking about the unpleasant truths that go hand in hand with the drug dealing lifestyle, from the violence often perpetrated by those involved to the expectation on dealers to “plug” drugs to avoid capture.’

I find a police force watching a man 24-hours a day for 45 days to see him defecate (on these allegations) far more unpleasant a truth, a truth about the state of freedom in Britain today.

Samizdata quote of the day

Well, the memo was released. You can read it in full here, and I recommend you do so because, on the evidence of much of Friday’s TV and radio coverage, most commentators only want to talk about it in the most shallow political terms. Whereas the questions it raises about state corruption in an age of round-the-clock technological surveillance are far more profound.

Mark Steyn

Read the memo.

Holy.Fucking.Shit.

All together now: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

Sorry for the unoriginal choice of title. This is about the fourth Samizdata post with a title related to that slogan, and the umpteenth to mention it. Don’t blame us. If the authorities would stop repeatedly proving that slogan to be a cruel travesty, we would be happy to stop going on about it.

Until that day arrives, the Guardian has a good report on the latest example of what innocent people have to fear:

Police made ‘appalling’ errors in using internet data to target suspects

Police have made serious errors getting search warrants for suspected sex offenders, leading to the targeting of innocent people and children being wrongly separated from their parents, an official report has revealed.

The errors – highlighted by the interception of communications commissioner, Sir Stanley Burnton, in his annual report to the prime minister – had “appalling” consequences and related to some of the most intrusive powers the state can use against its citizens.

In one example, two children were separated from their parents for a weekend while the parents were questioned as suspects in a child sexual exploitation case. It later emerged that police had raided the wrong address due to an error on the documentation and the parents were innocent.

Digital devices belonging to innocent people were also forensically examined by police, Burnton said.

The errors identified were mainly because details were wrongly entered into software that helps police work out the location where a specific IP (internet protocol) address has been used.

But IP addresses are routinely reassigned by internet providers. Burnton warned investigators not to rely on them when trying to work out who is hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to commit crimes.

He wrote: “These [errors] are far more common than is acceptable, especially in cases relating to child sex exploitation. The impact on some victims of these errors has been appalling.”

Never mind Damian Green, do you want the cops to have this power over you?

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has threatened to resign if Damian Green (the First Secretary of State, effectively Deputy Prime Minister) is sacked unfairly. Why, you may ask, is Davis – a Brexiteer – willing to put Theresa May’s already shaky government at risk for the sake of a Remainer like Green?

The Guardian link above explains it better than I can:

The Brexit secretary believes his cabinet colleague is the victim of a police vendetta and made it clear to Theresa May that he would be willing to leave the government if he felt Green had been unfairly treated.

The threat emerged only hours after a former Metropolitan police detective came forward with fresh claims implying that Green himself had been viewing pornography found on his workplace computer when police raided his Commons office in November 2008.

Green was a shadow Home Office minister at the time and was under investigation because he had received a series of sensitive Home Office leaks. He denies viewing pornography on his parliamentary computer.

At the time, the Conservatives were fighting some of the Labour government’s law and order measures on libertarian grounds and Davis was a strong backer of Green’s work.

Mark Wallace of Conservative Home writes,

Whether Green did what is alleged or not, the behaviour of the police in his case is appalling

Lewis is speaking out because he disapproves of what he claims he found. But on what authority is that his job, his responsibility, or his right? He gained access to that computer as a police officer, not as a self-appointed moral arbiter. The powers granted to police officers are given on the condition that they use them for specific purposes only. He was meant to be looking for evidence of crimes, not legal things which he could tut about. Separate to whether the Cabinet Office finds his or Green’s account to be true, is this really how we want former police officers to behave? If the police were to search your home or office or person, but fail to find evidence of any crime, is it acceptable that years down the line the officers involved could publicly embarrass you by claiming they found legal pornography, or anything else legal that they personally find morally icky? That’s an awful precedent, which would harm trust in the police and worry a lot of innocent people that private information might be being held over them. In a society under the rule of law we should all have a right to expect that the police do their job, but do not exploit their professional positions for personal grandstanding or moralising at a later date.

I took a look inside the College of Policing Code of Ethics: A Code of Practice for the Principles and Standards of Professional Behaviour for the Policing Profession of England and Wales.

Under “Standard of Professional Behaviour” section 3.1.7, “Confidentiality”, it said:

I will treat information with respect, and access or disclose it only in the proper course of my duties.

7.1
According to this standard you must:
• be familiar with and abide by the data protection principles described in the Data Protection Act 1998
• access police-held information for a legitimate or authorised policing purpose only
• not disclose information, on or off duty, to unauthorised recipients
• understand that by accessing personal data without authorisation you could be
committing a criminal offence, regardless of whether you then disclose that personal data.

Do we want to set the precedent that if in the course of a search a police officer finds evidence of behaviour that is legal but frowned upon they can make it public?