Met launches net café spy operation
Patriotic owners to peer over customer shoulders
Internet café owners are being asked to spy on their customers as part of the Met police's terrorism prevention efforts.
Under a pilot project in Camden some have agreed to monitor their customers' internet habits for evidence of interest in Islamic extremism, the BBC reports. They are intalling police screensavers and putting up posters warning against visiting extremist websites.
The intitative is part of the Prevent strand of the government's counter-terrorism strategy, which aims to stop radicalisation by winning the "battle of ideas". Café owners are asked to use their own judgement as to what amounts to extremist material.
The focus on internet cafes follows the conviction last year of the liquid bomb plotters, who planned to blow up passenger jets by mixing chemicals disguised as soft drinks. They used public cafés to anonymously access extremist websites and communicate with each other.
Arun Kundnani of the Institute of Race Relations described the initiative as "dangerous".
"It... potentially criminalises people for accessing material that is legal but which expresses religious and political opinions that police officers find unacceptable," he said.
"It is likely to result in not only a general violation of privacy and freedom of expression but also discrimination against Muslims, whose use of the internet will be seen as inherently more suspicious."
Other parts of Prevent have been criticised for alienating Muslim communities from the police. It has also been alleged that funds meant to support moderate Islamic groups have been diverted to extremists. ®
Are they completely fucking stupid?
They're trying to prevent impressionable people from becoming radicalised by spying on them and telling them they're not allowed to view certain material? What kind of morons are we paying?
Re: About time
Because not everyone's idea of suspicious behaviour is the same. You might be looking at something perfectly innocent that someone else considers dodgy. Then you're stuffed. Of course you can tell them that you're innocent, but that's what guilty people say, isn't it?
It's trying to officially sanction paranoia, which isn't healthy for anyone and will achieve very little in terms of protecting the public, much like terror policy in general.
Profiling & Subjectivity
This could be interesting* if anything happens with it.
I'm pretty sure that I, as a white male, with long hair, biker jacket, and an mp3 player blasting out Rammstein, would be able to look at Islamic history, paying careful attention to the Crusade era, without a problem. Hell, I could easily say I was researching for Assassin's Creed.
If my Asian wife (not a Muslim, but was brought up as one) was to look at the same material, it might be considered "extremist", as the Islamic response to the Crusades of Western Christendom is often used as an analogy for current Jihadist behaviour - in effect, Islam responded with violence to the Western Christian coalition in the Crusades, and they're doing the same now. The only thing that's changed is the method. The Crusaders use smart missiles instead of Templars, and the Muslims use IEDs instead of light horse archers.
Either way, the material is either legal, or it is not (whether some material should be legal or not is another conversation entirely!). Jumping on people who have chosen to view legal material for no reason other than "they might be thinking bad thoughts whilst viewing it" is not acceptable. What I might consider perfectly reasonable theological or historical research, would be another person's "extremist propaganda".
What happens if I view extremist Christian material? It does exist, as can be seen with websites about god hating homosexuals, to cite only a single example.
I feel the need to grow my beard long and enter an internet cafe (if I can find one!) with greetings of "Salam, brothers" just to see what happens. Though I'm not sure if I'm brave enough to risk being locked away and never heard from again, as seems to happen with depressing regularity.
*: note that I mean "interesting" in a subjective sense.... "terrifying" is also applicable here.