My heart goes out to the victims and their families after these truly reprehensible atrocities. I just have one thing to say about the response to what has happened. Theresa, the internet is not to blame.
In case you missed it, Prime Minister Theresa May walked out of 10 Downing Street on Sunday morning, after a night of terrorist attacks that left seven dead and many injured, declaring “enough is enough.”
She warned that there had been “far too much tolerance of extremism” in the UK, promising a review of the counter-terrorism strategy and, more importantly to this story, demanding new international agreements to regulate the internet.
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide.” She said.
Her plan is to “work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements, to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremism and terrorism planning.”
Now, I get it. When scared, it feels safe, it feels easy and its within our moral fibre as human beings to find someone or something to blame, and we are free to do so as British citizens, who have the freedom of speech and the privacy to discuss openly. But if we get sucked into this convenient narrative, then we run the risk of not only losing all those freedoms ourselves – but this rush to judgement could end up adversely affecting the rest of the planet.
The internet, and big companies who provide internet services, has become a very convenient scapegoat for many politicians – when really, they should look within for the blame. To spot the few who plan attacks, we must watch everybody. However, the uncomfortable truth is mass surveillance does not work. The U.S. Government’s own research supported this in 2015. Not only is it proven an ineffective use of resources to spread crime prevention too thin, but also it creates a paranoid climate amongst the nation’s people.
And I know the defence of this – something along the lines of “if you’ve done nothing wrong, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.” But don’t you hate when you can just feel a stranger looking over your shoulder at your phone, reading the message you are typing while waiting for the green man to cross the road? Imagine that on a constant basis.
Plus, say this goes through and all channels such as Whatsapp become open to surveillance. The terrorists you are hunting will move deeper into the dark web, where you 100% cannot find them. There are many ways confidential communications can be achieved, and there’s no chance the government can keep up with all of them.
Add to this the fact that a “backdoor” into any system is an easy vulnerability for hackers to intercept communications; user protection from criminals and terrorists on these services will cease to exist.
So what would be the fix? Simple – repair the prison system. Evidence shows that Masood acted alone after a so-called “radicalisation journey.” He had a string of minor convictions from 1982 to 2002 and served time in jail. The purpose of imprisonment is to both rehabilitate current occupants and put the fear into would-be offenders to not break the law. Prison didn’t stop him from committing crime, and he continued on to commit a heinous act of terrorism.
So what is the fix? It’s easy – repair the criminal justice system. Much like Masood before him, one of the suspects, a 27-year-old Muslim extremist who has not been named at the request of police, actually appeared in a TV documentary last year about British Jihadis, caught on camera in an altercation with police. Not only this, he was filmed with and I quote “two notorious preachers who were well known to police and intelligence officials because of their extremist views.”
And it’s difficult to repair the criminal justice system when this government implements 20,000 police cuts, and more than 10,000 cuts to prison staff. This makes our system rather inept at doing what it’s supposed to do – rehabilitate criminals and put the fear into would-be offenders to not break the law.
Prison didn’t stop Masood from committing crime, and our current system of policing didn’t stop the unnamed Muslim extremist last Saturday. We have to stop this assumption by government that this system is a place to “put all the bad ones.” We need to take action against this, and against a government who is clearly not planning to spend extra in the areas that quite clearly need it (just look at Theresa May relentlessly dodging questions about police cuts today). Every other party has made commitments to increase spending for our police, except for the Tories.
Take this issue about repairing a broken system, mix it with their want for an Orwellian-style internet and one option, in my opinion is left. Labour is the only party with the pledges for judicial oversight into the means of using internet surveillance and the commitment to add 10,000 “bobbies on the beat.” This, amongst many reasons that I will delve into in a future blog this week, is why I am voting Labour and you should too.
But that is just one person’s opinion, and you are sure to either agree or disagree. What matters above all else is two things:
1. You vote. More importantly you vote with all the facts. I know this rigomorale of a General Election campaign is a whole lot of spun disinformation, but take the time to find the real information about issues you care about. Take the time to find out everything you need to know to make an educated decision.
2. We stand united. Whether you are on the left or on the right, these terrorist attacks are trying to accomplish one thing – fear and separation. Do not be scared into division by these inhuman acts, because that is exactly what they want and we are better. Do not feel paralysed by the atrocity – choose to unite and help instead. This is not a time to be split apart through persecution. As someone quite famous said: “United we stand, divided we fall,” and this is the United Kingdom. Let’s act a little bit more like the name suggests.
Check out my live read through of the blog on Twitter. Spoiler alert: I annoy a UKIP supporter.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.