One peer said: ‘I don't know about Snapchat and Whatsapp, but terrorists and jihadists do’
On Monday afternoon, four members of the House of Lords sneakily attempted to revive the Snoopers' Charter, the controversial surveillance bill that would allow the government to monitor your mobile phone, email and internet usage. But somewhere in the middle of the hours-long debate in Parliament, something became rapidly clear: they have no idea what they're talking about. They're not even sure what Whatsapp is. Somebody help?
"I'm not a tweeter," said Lord King of Bridgwater, also known as Thomas King. "But we've got Facebook, we've got Twitter. The other day, somebody tried to explain to me what WhatsApp is. Somebody tried to explain to me about Snapchat. But, my Lords, I don't know about them. What is absolutely clear is that the terrorists and jihadists do."
Lord King – a Tory peer who is a former Defence Minister – was speaking in defence of the bill. Fair enough not being a "tweeter" (who wants those favs anyway?) but under-11 football teams and my 91-year old grandma understand what Whatsapp is. And they're not actually proposing a bill on it.
Undeterred by his inability to understand instant messaging between devices, Lord King demanded that we change it the fuck up. Why? Because ISIS.
"The understanding is actually that (ISIS), and part of their amazing advance across Syria and Iraq, is that their communication was so good," he argued. "And the way they kept together was entirely due to one or other of the last two systems that I mentioned."
But surely there are peers in the upper house who are down with those Whatsappin' kids, right? The ones who are wide awake to the potential for government abuse – oh.
Lord King is part of a group of four former defence ministers and police chiefs who have proposed 18 pages of amendments to the current counter-terrorism bill going through Parliament. Their proposals are a rehash of the Snoopers' Charter (formally known as the Communications Data Bill), which was rejected in 2012 by a select committee.
If implemented, the bill would force telecom companies to record all the metadata of a user's communications over a 12 month period and then hand that over to police without the need for a warrant – basically giving the cops extra insight into who you might be fucking, what supermarket you prefer or which tube line you ride the most.
Like David Cameron trying to ban encryption without having a clue what encryption is; in the wake of a savage, inhumane terrorist attack in another country, politicians are attempting to rush through laws they either don't fully understand (or do understand but don't want to say they understand).
This opportunistic method of lawmaking is not only distasteful but dangerous. If they don't actually have a grasp on what they're saying, rest assured that there are powerful people a little further down the food chain who know exactly how to use extra surveillance to their advantage.
If they do understand but aren't letting on, then we're being thrown around in a blender of non-information sludge by posh con artists who will attempt to have you believe that they're looking out for "us" because of a foreign, terrorist "them".
Fortunately, the mooted amendments were rejected this week. But that doesn't mean that surveillance issues won't rear their hawk-eyed head after this year's general election.
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