If your children are being taught about Magna Carta this year, its 800th anniversary (of version 1), here is the latest available version as amended by subsequent laws:
All the blank spaces are the bits that have been repealed – i.e. most of it – what remains is unenforceable.
It is of course entirely coincidental that this celebration of what *was* an important document comes as our beloved leaders slowly limit rights and put justice out of reach of ordinary people (e.g. by limiting legal aid and funding for judicial review).
The real attitude to the rule of law is exemplified by the Ministry of Justice in that it has been found by the courts to have acted unlawfully on multiple occasions.
Internet censorship and control is rather more subtle, pernicious and sinister than simply attempting to block sites from the entire population, part of a greater whole in terms of government and corporate control of information and increasingly effective and widespread across the planet.
Perhaps misapprehension about the intent and efficacy results in the apparent complacency – people still think ‘censorship v1.0′, which was superseded years ago, and if blocking (for example) can possibly be circumvented then it isn’t a big deal.
I’m certain China’s government is well aware it can’t block everything, but that doesn’t stop any of its myriad interferences with online traffic – nor the interferences of those who want to avoid upsetting the government, e.g. the service and content providers and internet users obliged to register with their real names.
China’s regulations governing internet use are very widely drawn – there’s the inevitable, expected expected stuff like prohibition of criminal activity to things like distortion of the truth, rumour spreading, insults and injuring the reputation of the state, criticism and debate of public policy positions. There is retroactive law here, too – the government is OK with retroactively declaring something a crime.
ISPs must keep records of their subscribers and monitor their internet usage in detail, keeping records for the police – subscribers must register with their local police station. Internet Content Providers (e.g. Yahoo) must apply for a licence before operating, identify and keep records about their users, monitor all content on their systems and promptly remove from public view and report inappropriate or illegal content (keeping it for 60 days, or more if requested) – they are made responsible for the content they show, some decide to err on the side of caution.
Many citizens use cybercafes. Not all cybercafes are licensed – they are supposed to be. The government has shut down tens of thousands of cybercafes. Cybercafes are required to install monitoring and filtering systems, to block porn and subversive content, keep detailed logs linking users (by demanding presentation of the citizen’s identity card before allowing the use of their internet connection) to the pages they visit, which must be made available to the Culture Department and Public Security Bureau on request, log attempts to visit blocked pages, and report all unlawful activity to the Culture Department and PSB.
If you want to run a legal ISP, ICP or cybercafe there are complex and expensive licensing requirements, mandatory inspections, prescribed minimums for available capital and the number of employees and wide restrictions on the types of content to which you allow access.
Bloggers (including microbloggers such as tumblrs) must register with their real names. Where it has been studied, real name registration inhibits behaviour – people tend to self-censor, there is a chilling effect on speech.
China filters the internet – using the Golden Shield, aka the Great Firewall – by means such as IP blocks, DNS poisoning, keyword filtering (e.g. web search results) and user blocking (e.g. where a search result is a banned word, the user’s connection is terminated for long periods). They don’t filter all content – possibly because that’s too resource-intensive today. But they do filter a lot of content. Officially, “superstitious, pornographic, violence-related, gambling and other harmful information”. Also, content relating to opposition parties, Tibet, the independence of Taiwan, Tiananmen Square, collective action (e.g. protests) – again, not all of it, but a lot of it. There is overblocking too, because they accept overblocking as a trade-off – e.g. they’ll block blogspot.com if there is unacceptable content on some blogspot subdomains.
Apparently, there is growing use of deep packet inspection, which can be used to block VPNs – one means of otherwise circumventing the Golden Shield. Some VPN software requires particular ports, which can be blocked. Many proxy servers are blocked. There is an ‘arms race’ with Tor, too, where China is blocking Tor relays and examining how Tor use shows in network traffic.
The government uses people and systems to create and filter posts and comments that favour the government’s positions and report posts and comments that oppose the government, deliberately attempting to alter the online environment in favour of the government – promoting positive views and repressing, monitoring and reporting negative views, shifting not only the particular views but also the perception of the prevalence of those views. Pro-government propaganda is disguised as posted by private voices. Internet providers, whether ISPs, ICPs or cybercafes, attempt to mitigate the risks of coming to the attention of the state and employ people and systems to monitor and moderate content, too. Users who persist in posting offending content face punishment ranging from being banned from the particular site, being banned from using the internet, to arrest and imprisonment.
China also censors and blocks by keywords. You can circumvent that by using homophones. But again that doesn’t mean we can be sanguine about keyword blocking. It increases the ‘cost’ of posting the content and reduces the likelihood of someone understanding the meaning.
So there are informal constraints (real name registrants self-censoring, internet users’ fear of testing the limits, internet providers erring on the side of caution and censoring and blocking, volunteer citizens monitoring, moderating, reporting and altering perceptions) as well as formal constraints (laws, regulations and state-deployed mechanisms). There is a shift of the burden of censorship and perception control from the state to private actors. There is a complex set of overlapping formal and informal, state- and private- mechanisms.
Tories and Labour playing to the gallery, I think.
Mr Johnson said he was sure Justice Secretary Jack Straw would look again at the law on householders’ right to defend themselves against intruders, despite previous reviews that have resulted in no change to the legal position. He was speaking after Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, promised a review of the legislation if the Conservatives won the next election to “provide the right level of protection for householders”.
Mr Johnson said he was sure Justice Secretary Jack Straw would look again at the law on householders’ right to defend themselves against intruders, despite previous reviews that have resulted in no change to the legal position.
He was speaking after Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, promised a review of the legislation if the Conservatives won the next election to “provide the right level of protection for householders”.
Mr Grayling told the Sunday Telegraph:
“At the moment the law allows a defendant to use ‘reasonable force’ to protect him or herself, their family or their property. Conservatives argue that the defence that the law offers a householder should be much clearer, and that prosecutions and convictions should only happen in cases where courts judge the actions involved to be ‘grossly disproportionate’.”
Mr Hussain was jailed for 30 months last week after being found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm by intent.
The 53-year-old businessman and his brother pursued three intruders who had tied up and threatened to kill his family in their Buckinghamshire home. They caught one of the men and beat him with a cricket bat so hard that the bat broke and the intruder was left with brain damage.
Judge John Reddihough noted Hussain’s “courage” but said he carried out a “dreadful, violent attack” on the intruder as he lay defenceless. … [also see the Guardian]
I suspect any future review will come to the same conclusions as those prior to it: you can use reasonable force, you’ll probably have a bit of leeway in terms of actions taken in the ‘heat of the moment’, but you aren’t allowed to use excessive force.
(hat-tip Andrew Watson)
Some organisations aren’t accepting the new UK ID card and thereby ruining Christmas.
A couple’s Christmas break was ruined after the husband was told he could not use his ID card to catch a ferry.
Norman Eastwood, 64, had been assured the new Government document was valid for travel within Europe.
That is in fact what the IPS website says: “this card can be used for travel within the EU/EEA and Switzerland”.
But when he arrived at Hull for a trip to Rotterdam, P&O told him they had no knowledge of the cards, only available in the North West. …
One man had to cancel a Christmas cross-Channel break when P&O told him he could not use his ID card. And another said he was ‘treated like an illegal immigrant’ by airport staff who had no idea what his ID card was.
Bricklayer Norman Eastwood, who was one of the first people to get a card, said he was fuming when P&O staff at Hull refused to let him on the ferry to Rotterdam without a passport.
Meanwhile student Cyrus Nayeri, from Denton, said he was treated like a criminal by staff at airline German Wings when he showed them his ID card.
Cyrus, 18, who was travelling from Stansted to Bonn on an educational trip, was taken into a side room and told he could not fly.
He said: “It was like they thought I was trying to use a fake document.
“I was one of the biggest supporters of the scheme but now I definitely wouldn’t recommend them to anyone.”
When Mr Nayeri complained, airline staff eventually phoned British government officials – and let him on the plane at the last minute.
But a German Wings spokesman later confirmed the company would NOT be accepting the ID cards in future, until they are recognised by the German Federal Police.
Some 1,736 people in Greater Manchester have bought the £30 cards after the Home Office promised they could be used to travel in Europe.
But customer service staff at nine major travel companies – including British Airways, Eurostar and BMI baby – told M.E.N reporters posing as customers that the cards could NOT be used instead of passports.
Eight of the nine companies later issued statements saying staff had given the wrong advice – and that the cards COULD be used after all. But Eurostar remained unsure. A spokesman said: “We are unable to confirm whether the ID cards are valid on Eurostar at this time.”
Meanwhile two major German airlines said they would not accept the cards until they had been officially recognised by the German federal authorities.
A P&O spokesman said: “We weren’t aware of the trial of these ID cards. The Home Office did not communicate this scheme to us. UK Borders Agency at Hull told us they weren’t aware of the trial either.”
I’m not sure there is a ‘trial’, as such – ID cards “can be used for travel within the EU/EEA and Switzerland”.
In a statement, the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) said it remained confident that the majority of travellers will have no problems using ID cards as an alternative to passports.
The National Identity Card is a valid document for travel and is as good as a passport in Europe.
We expect all carriers in the UK to accept National Identity Cards for travel as a legal duty and we are confident that the vast majority of travellers will have no problems using their Identity Card as a travel document.
The majority? Best take your passport instead…
London Review Blog (hat-tip Andrew Watson):
Christmas, if you do it, is supposed to be about ‘good will toward men’. It’s from Luke 2, just before the angels appear and the shepherds head for the manger. Every year fair numbers of people manage a gesture that rises to the occasion. Still, in a humbug mood you can imagine the card that says ‘Tiny Tim’s still on crutches. Have a good one’ or ‘This Christmas I’ll be eating for higher sea levels’ or ‘We’ve introduced ID cards for foreign nationals. Season’s Greetings.’ Did I say imagine? Here’s the Christmas card the UK Border Agency has been sending out to, among others, lawyers and charities working with asylum seekers and refugees. Run your eye up and down the pretty tree to find ‘controlling the flow of migration’ or ‘biometric fingerprinting for visa applicants’ etc (you can click on it for a larger image).