I continue to be amazed at the number of people who still seem to think that using the internet somehow hides their real identity. We are all aware of censorship in a number of countries and, on the whole, abhor it, although, in the face of hacking attacks and abusive social networking site trolling, it is very difficult to find black and white. There is currently a movement in India for example against Draconian use of their Information Technology Act which was seemingly designed to prevent abusive e-mails and blasphemous websites. No one, except the most liberal, would argue with such aims, but of course interpretation of ‘blasphemous’ always causes problems and now the blocking of websites has extended to all those featuring pirated material, which has effectively prevented access to legitimate material too. Not such a good censorship, perhaps.
But it is the use of social networking sites to exchange messages with friends and relatives that staggers me. Do people not use telephones any more? Recently television presenter, Melanie Sykes, began tweeting a new beau, Jack Cockings, after he posted a picture of himself naked. Melanie responded by posting a pic of herself in lingerie and they then progressed into exchanges of sexually explicit tweets. It took a message from an outsider (‘Get a room you two.’) to bring them to their senses and presumably make them realise that they were not the only two reading these messages. Duh.
More deliberately, the messy divorce of the two banking heirs, Ben Goldsmith and Kate Rothschild looked like it was being played out over the internet, until someone, presumably Daddies, pointed out that this may not be the best publicity for either of them (leave alone for the banks). These are all intelligent individuals, sorry, I mean ‘educated’.
But, in what I think may prove to be truly a landmark action, a Brighton lady has been granted Court permission to seek out the identities of internet trolls who targeted her. The police have not been keen to put resources into such actions before, but with a Court ruling that an offence may have been committed, they might now themselves target abusive internet users. I hope they do and I hope that this activity also removes the demands for further censorship in this country. No one should be allowed to hide behind an alias like, er, nomadtraveller.
Finally, one area where the police do pursue persons on the internet is where larger crimes might have taken place, such as fraud. Thus a recent organised crime case of identity theft on a massive scale was successfully shut down and the perpetrators jailed. Jolly good! But, and I revert to my first statement, why did this gang think that they could advertise on the internet and that only criminals would see their website? Yes, the whole point of a website is to advertise to as wide an audience as possible. In fact they seem to have been quite successful for a while, but they know now how public the internet is. So do Melanie Sykes and Jack Cockings. And so do Ben Goldsmith and Kate Rothschild. So, only 50 million people to go then.