Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wild West meets WWW.

On the orders of an 'acting detective inspector', the Fitwatch site has been closed.

Like the Moose, I had to think about this one. On the one hand, I cannot support the rioters because rioting only leads to harsher controls. In fact, our leaders welcome such riots because then they can push for those controls and most people will agree. Just as with the RIPA laws and the anti-tourist laws, people will think the new restrictions will be applied only to the few who actually cause trouble. It amazes me how many people can be fooled by the same trick over and over again.

It's not really about the riots this time. It's about the closure of a website on the instruction of a police officer who has no authority to do that. No court order, no evidence, no due process, just a letter and bang - the site is gone.

Snowolf noticed something. The letter contains no orders to shut the site. Merely a request, but worded in that Mafia-style 'offer you can't refuse' manner.

Trooper Thompson
noticed something else. The letter refers to 'offenders'. Not 'suspects'. We used to have an 'innocent until proven guilty' rule in this country, but Labour did away with that and the Coagulation show no signs of bringing it back. As the Trooper says, in the old days, anyone arrested was 'helping police with their enquiries'. Now, anyone the police want to talk to is automatically an offender.

So while I disagree absolutely with any form of violent protest, who in their right mind could support the closure of any website on the basis of a request backed up by veiled threats, issued by an acting DI whose force refers to those they might want to question as offenders, and all in the absence of any due process of law at all?

Well, there is one consolation. As usual, the actions of the imbeciles put in charge of us have backfired in spectacular fashion. I, for one, was not even aware of the alleged 'advice to offenders' on that website, but I am now.

Once, it was on one page of one website. Since the heavy hand of the law came down, it has gone viral.

The sensible thing would have been to leave it alone, but those words are anathema to the oafs who believe themselves important. So, now, that advice is far more available than it ever would have been if it had been left on one website frequented by a few activists.

Having read it, it is no more controversial than the advice Nightjack used to give, or the sort of thing Old Holborn publishes. It does not advocate running from the law, only not making it too easy for the police to pin something on you. Especially if you didn't actually do anything but just happened to be in the vicinity and were photographed.

Fitwatch support the actions of the rioters. I do not. Rioting will bring down ever more draconian laws and regulations on us all and we will be barely able to move without a stop-and-search. This kind of protest is likely to be far more effective.

Those who agree with tighter controls will imagine they will only be applied to 'student types' but then they are the same people who believe that harassing photographers and forcing tourists to delete their holiday snaps is a fair and reasonable application of anti-terror laws. The ones who believe that the correct application of RIPA is to set up Bin Police and spy on parents who might be sending their children to the 'wrong' school. Idiots, in other words. There are a lot of them.

Even though I can have no sympathy for any rioter who is arrested, this approach by the police cannot be justified. This is not the Wild West. The Sheriff's word is not law. In any sane and sensible world, the 'acting DI' would have his status changed to 'acting Jobseeker' and a full and abject apology would be forthcoming. These things will not happen. There will be a mealy-mouthed justification and that site will stay down. The public will take the side of the police because the public, as a collective, are really pretty dim. They will only see police action against offenders (who have not been arrested, never mind convicted of anything) and they will not understand that officers of the law are not above the courts when it comes to the application of law.

So the general public will accept the police stance and will not be surprised when it happens again. And again and again. When the police declare who is an offender and who must be silenced without all that tedious legal nonsense getting in the way. When this new power filters down through the ranks until one day, everyone stopped by a PCSO is automatically categorised as an offender. No, the public will not be surprised.

The first time they will experience surprise is when it happens to them.

Let this one go and the precedent is set. It's a very dangerous precedent indeed.

Lawyers - you folk should really be paying attention here. The police are about to take a step that will allow them to bypass your entire profession. You'll all be out of work. No more money.

I'm finding it difficult to sympathise, but then the alternative on offer is much worse.

5 comments:

JuliaM said...

"The sensible thing would have been to leave it alone, but those words are anathema to the oafs who believe themselves important."

The sensible thing would have been to leave it alone and monitor what they were saying to each other.

If you find a patch where deer like to graze, you don't run into the clearing, waving your arms and yelling at the top of your voice. You wait up a tree, with a rifle and a recipe...

Giolla Decair said...

As I've observed elsewhere that the site was taken down really isn't surprising a company offering a fiver a month hosting isn't going to quibble with any seemingly plausible legalish letter from anyone. Ever since Lawrence Godfrey most ISPs/hosting firms have taken the approach of take the complained about site down first, so that they don't become liable as publishers, then contact the site owner to see what they want to do about it.

Having just read fitwatches hosting providers terms and conditions they really were a bad choice of hoster. The T&C's basically boil down to "if anyone says you're doing anything slightly naughty maybe, we'll pull the plug faster than you can say "but.."".

The surprising thing is this doesn't happen more often.

slamlander said...

Actually, with punitive damages and whatnot, that hosting provider just made themselves vulnerable to a LOT of liability. But hey, I'm an American so what do I know? At least, it's an avenue worth exploring and may even provide some needed funding for fitwatch ;)

The above is the main reason that US hosting providers require a court order before shutting down a website.

banned said...

If anyone had asked I would have assumed that 'fitwatch.com' was a soft porn site.
Still now that plod have done their thing I now know all about Fitwatch, their mission and their mates.

As you say Leggy, it's not much more than Nihtjacks postings, I suppose that, had they chosen the courts route plod might have pointed to
"DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time." as evidence of Perverting thre course of justice but anyone infear of getting their collar felt would surely work this out for themselves.

Leg-iron said...

JuliaM - that lesson never gets through. Every time, it's straight in there with the ban, so something that would hardly have been noticed gets spread all over the Internet.

Giolla - true, ISPs have a tendency to panic. Which is why they should have had a mirror site to point their domain name at. Something the acting DI evidently doesn't know - the place you buy your domain name is not necessarily the same as where it's hosted.

Slamlander - if Fitwatch were a trading company, they'd have a case there. I doubt they'd bother complaining to the very authority that wants them shut down though.

Banned - any who wouldn't have worked it out would most likely not have looked at the fitwatch site. Now they can hardly avoid seeing the advice.

As usual, the official processes of this country backfire harder than a clown car. And then the doors fall off.

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