Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
If you live in New York City and like to brag about criminal activities you had better watch what you say because the NYPD might be reading your tweets and Facebook statuses.
Social media has become a platform for so-called revolutions, for which it is praised, as well as a way for rioters to coordinate with each other in England, for which it is criticized.
The Internet, and social media in particular, has become the new front in large scale warfare along with new territory for police to monitor for criminal activities and even advertised house parties.
The NYPD has already been utilizing social media platforms in criminal investigations which have assisted in the arrest and conviction of multiple criminals. Now the New York Police Department has decided to form a new unit with the explicit purpose of monitoring Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other social networks in an attempt to track down suspects. The unit will be a part of the Community Affairs Bureau and will extend beyond the Internet into community outreach programs.
Assistant Commissioner Kevin O’Connor will run the unit who will trawl social media networks trying to uncover chatter about crimes ranging from the seemingly insignificant house party to “gang showdowns and other potential mayhem,” according to NY Daily News.
The British Prime Minister David Cameron is taking a wildly different approach to social media. Due to his belief (belief being the operative word) that Facebook and Twitter contributed to the violence and chaos of the London riots, Cameron is attempting to eradicate free speech with the help of the aforementioned two social media behemoths.
Instead of just monitoring and collating data like the new NYPD unit, Cameron and others in the British parliament are advocating the complete shutdown of social media during times of civil unrest.
Cameron claims that social media helped organize the riots and stated, “Free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill. So we are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry whether it will be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services.”
Cameron is now unabashedly advocating the exact same control exerted over the Web by corrupt leaders in Egypt and elsewhere.
When this happens in a non-Western nation, the media and governments go into overdrive, taking every possible opportunity to point to the Internet controls as evidence of a non-democratic, evil regime.
Even Hillary Clinton pretended to care about freedom of speech in response to some Internet shutdowns in the Middle East, resulting in “secret internet” technology being given to foreign dissidents on the taxpayer dime.
Yet when it happens in Western nations it is seen as a legitimate option, regardless of the ludicrous hypocrisy of this position.
David Cameron has the support of the British Tory Member of Parliament, Louise Mensch, who claims that rumors spread via Twitter and other social networks distracted police officers and wasted valuable time.
Not surprisingly, Mensch justifies this by saying that it would only be used when necessary during an emergency and would only be temporary.
This line of reasoning is not only ridiculous, but history tells us that this power would be used by the government in situations where it is not justified.
In the coming days I will continue to cover this issue in detail, as well as the possibility that the British riots, which were actively enabled by police, will be used to give the government complete control over the Internet in the UK.
This would give the Brits the ability to quickly and easily shut down dissidence and political demonstrations.
Witnesses early on were reporting that police allowed rioters to loot stores in Tottenham, but the police have adamantly denied these accusations.
However, the precedent is on the side of the witnesses, given that so many times in the past police have actively enabled rioters in order to justify a crackdown on everyone.
This has been seen multiple times at protests of the global banking cartels known as the G8 and G20, as detailed in the incredible documentary Into the Fire.
I am not alone in seeing the inherent dangers in the response that has followed the riots and the role that social media might (or might not) have had on the chaos.
In fact, Jeff Jarvis of The Guardian has written a surprisingly accurate piece detailing how allowing the government to exert control over any free speech is a slippery slope of tyranny.
Not only has Cameron expressed interest in shutting down free speech whenever the government decides there is an emergency, he has also looked into “asking online services to take down offending photos.”
This is incredibly dangerous as there is no legal precedent for determining the offensiveness of a photograph, just as the definitions governments utilize for “emergency” have more wiggle room than an Olympic-size swimming pool.
Jarvis writes, “what separates [Cameron] from the Saudi government demanding the ability to listen to and restrict its BBM networks? What separates you from Arab tyrannies cutting off social communication via Twitter or from China banning it?”
This question can be answered with a single word: nothing.
This naked hypocrisy is almost painfully obvious. I can’t understand how a single person who supports the idea of a democratic and free society could stand behind giving the government the ability to control speech whenever they deem necessary.
Here in the United States we have had practically all communications illegally monitored by the NSA, CIA and FBI for years; even before the PATRIOT Act was forced into law in the wake of September 11th.
The white paper authored by J. I. Nelson, Ph.D. titled How the NSA warrantless wiretap system works reveals a great deal of the apparatus already erected in the United States to monitor and control communications.
This report was published in 2006, so one can assume that the technology has progressed considerably since that date.
Here in America we saw the LulzSec and Anonymous attacks drum up support for a total crackdown on Internet free speech, which thankfully has yet to occur.
Will the riots in the UK be the talking point on their side of the pond? This seems to be the case as there are already considerable amounts of support coming from various parts of the British government.
I sincerely hope that the people of the UK realize what will come down the road if they agree to give up their liberty for security and that they curb this before it is allowed to happen.
If the people do not stop this from happening, all ability to peacefully protest and engage in free speech will be at risk of being not only monitored but cut off altogether.