UK Liberty

Academics oppose ID cards

Posted in ID Cards by ukliberty on May 28, 2008

The Guardian:

Lecturers voted overwhelmingly to oppose and defy the government’s plans to introduce identity cards at the University and College annual congress in Manchester today.

The government plans to pilot the controversial identity cards with international students, which lecturers warned could deter them from choosing to study in the UK.

Mike Cushman, from the LSE, had led research into identity cards and called on members to oppose their introduction as “citizens and members of society, as trade union members and education trade union members”.

He said the Home Office would like society to believe that identity cards would “end terrorism … benefit fraud … illicit health service use … identity theft … and there would be no more queues and constant sunshine in Manchester”.

BBC parrots identity cards fluff

Posted in ID Cards by ukliberty on May 28, 2008

A rubbish article from the BBC:

The new ID cards will, it is true, be much harder to forge than a bank statement, or even a driving licence.


You know that to be true even though the system has yet to be developed and deployed?

Without even outlining (god forbid, discussing) the contexts in which a forgery might be used?

The two go hand in hand, after all.

It will be a bit of plastic with a chip on it. Well-resourced criminals will obtain blanks or those issued to other people.  What might be more difficult is putting convincing information on it.  But certainly sufficient to, say, prove your age, or collect a parcel (two examples on the IPS website).

They will include unique fingerprint information and facial scans.

“Facial scans”?

Or in normal English, “digitally stored photographs”?

Question for legal eagles: did the BBC researchers commit an offence when they ordered a fake driving licence? I’m thinking particularly of s25(5) of the Identity Cards Act 2006.

Irony alert: outraged bloggers give BNP free publicity

Posted in freedom of speech, politicians on liberty by ukliberty on May 28, 2008

Some people seem upset that a Richard Barnbrook (one of the BNPs tiny number of elected representatives) has signed up, along with some 20,000 other users, to My Telegraph, and created a blog there, just like hundreds if not thousands of other users.

An interesting discussion about freedom of speech could have been had… but wasn’t. However, the furore has highlighted some interesting issues.

But first, some people seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that the Telegraph solicited Barnbrook’s views or was otherwise proactive about seeking them – so far as I can see there is no evidence of that. No more so than any other member of the public, that is.

Jim Jay wrote,

I don’t know who I’m more annoyed with Barnbrook or the Telegraph for giving him a platform from which to organise his right wing paramilitary coup.

Similarly, Jess McCabe wrote,

Telegraph gives the BNP blogs

And Sunny,

Telegraph gives the fascists a platform

The Telegraph didn’t ‘give’ Barnbrook, the BNP, fascists, or anyone else specifically a platform: My Telegraph is a platform (like WordPress) available to any member of the public provided he agrees to its terms and conditions.

Sunny pointed out that,

There is a difference between what is legally and democratically allowed and tolerated, and what should be actively promoted.

Agreed as a standalone comment.

But in context this implies that the Telegraph is actively promoting Barnbrook’s blog. So far as I can see that is not the case – indeed the only people talking about it are outraged bloggers and cooler heads!

Ok, so what is the freedom of speech issue? Well, should Barnbrook be permitted to have a blog on My Telegraph in the first place?

The newspaper yesterday defended its decision to host the blog and said it has had no complaints. A spokeswoman said: “Our readers are entitled to their opinions and, within the law, they’re entitled to publish them on the My Telegraph blogging platform. We believe our readers are intelligent and discerning enough to avoid the content they dislike and report that which offends. That doesn’t mean the Telegraph necessarily endorses their opinions nor promotes them.” (Media Guardian)

Seems pretty reasonable doesn’t it?

Indeed going further than that, in terms of proactively moderating articles and comments (User Generated Content), may put the host in a legally vulnerable position:

a dilemma ensues because ‘publication risk’ is least likely when using the pre-moderation model, and yet, this is the one which will be most detrimental to his defence in the event that some libelous material escapes his watchful eye, for he can no longer claim to be a mere distributor.

Indeed the would-be censor may be taken to implicitly approve of content that he allows to be published.

This further relates to freedom of speech in terms of a “chilling effect” (will the host/poster be scared to publish/write something for fear of complaints, bad press and legal encounters) as well as legal restrictions.


Gerry Gable, veteran editor of the magazine Searchlight said that most of what Barnbrook says is ‘offensive dribble’.

I certainly agree that it’s dribble, it’s too much like parody to be truly offensive. I think a Woodrow Wilson quote is particularly apposite here:

I have always been among those who believed that the greatest freedom of speech was the greatest safety, because if a man is a fool, the best thing to do is to encourage him to advertise the fact by speaking.

Gable added:

“And to those that talk about freedom of speech I would say freedom of speech has its limitations in a democracy.

Which is absolutely true, there are lots, some of which you may agree with, some of which you may not.

Then he goes and ruins it all by saying,

Try speaking about freedom of speech to the families of murdered (Black teenagers) Stephen Lawrence or Anthony Walker in Liverpool and the white families involved in interracial disputes.”

I don’t see how freedom of speech enters into those tragedies. Freedom of speech wasn’t in question when Lawrence was stabbed or when Walker was axed by racists. No one of sound mind thinks freedom of speech permits racists to beat up and murder people.

What I find offensive is the idea that – barring certain considerations, principally relating to harm – freedom of speech is only for those who you don’t find offensive. That seems to be the underlying current here – “Barnbrook must not be permitted to speak because he is offensive”. That’s not good, and it cuts both ways – if Barnbrook finds you offensive, would you shut up? Of course not. The world would be a very quiet place if we all held to that.

Shane Richmond at the Telegraph, incidentally, responded to the Guardian article with:

Jews who support Israel are “false Jews”, Condoleezza Rice is an “Aunt Jemima on the Bush plantation” and Robert Mugabe’s regime in Zimbabwe is no worse than that of Ian Smith. These are just some of the views that can be found on the Guardian’s Comment Is Free website.

Then he makes some interesting claims about Guardian moderation policy, quotes some offensive comments made on the Guardian’s CIF, and concludes with something I find reasonable:

Are those the views of the Guardian? I doubt it but then they didn’t remove them so, given their criticism of us, what else can we assume?

Well, how about we take the view that when you have an open platform, whether it’s My Telegraph, Comment Is Free, or the internet itself, then you have to accept that a multiplicity of views will be expressed on it and that some of those views will be unpalatable to some people.

But, has anyone made a complaint alleging specific T&C violations*?

Telegraph says no.

Well done everyone concerned!

* not just that Barnbrook is a member of the BNP and not a very good writer to boot

Good question!

Posted in accountability, politicians on liberty, state-citizen relationship by ukliberty on May 28, 2008

Raedwald (hat-tip Stumbling and Mumbling):

How much would you pay for a job that required no formal skills or qualifications and no previous experience, and for which there is no shortage of applicants to work at any wage? Classical economics suggest that when demand is fixed – at 648 or so jobs – but supply is in the tens of thousands, that the wage will fall to the minimum at which people are prepared to be paid. …