Government and Main Parties Point the Finger at Social Media for Terrorist Attack

David Elston's picture

While Manchester still grieves, there are those who have already started using the event to further their own political agenda.

As soon as the election is over, the government will seek to immediately pass new powers allowing the police and MI5 to remove all encryption from services such as WhatsApp and Facebook, despite social media providers' stringent opposition to any action weakening encryption. Further to this, non-partisan professionals such as Open Rights Group (ORG) have also continually raised their opposition to providing a back door to encryption, since it entirely destroys the concept of security.

Despite both campaigners and business professionals warning against it, the government is locked on this dangerous course.

We will continue making the case that by providing an easy way around encryption, you make the service far less secure and put the public at risk. Encryption saves lives. It keeps our bank information and our location, or typical locations, secure. It protects who we talk to - friends, parents, and our children. It provides a safe way to communicate after and during an attack like the ones we saw in Manchester and earlier this year, in Westminster.

No degree of shredding encryption will make us safer. Encryption, by design, makes sure that only those that we intend to see our most sensitive of conversations and data are able to access that information. If we undermine encryption, it allows anyone with a strong enough agenda to acquire information about their target or targets much more easily.

A draft document containing these power-grab proposals, which was put together after the Westminster attacks, has already been quietly provided to UK companies for consultation. The consultation ended on the 19th May. However, the sudden push to bring this draft into legislation is a direct and knee-jerk reaction to the terror attack that took place on the 22nd May in Manchester.

We must not lose ourselves to this. A sense of proportion has already begun to unravel, and ill thought-out reactionary comments such as this remark by one Government Minister are being made:

     “We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now.

     “The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.”

As expected but still no less disheartening, both the Conservatives and Labour appear united in destroying our private lives and putting us at greater risk either through ignorance or dispassion. Conservative Candidate Tom Tugendhat, along with Former Labour Cabinet Minister Baroness Jowell, have already expressed that they are singling out social media as a main component of the terrorist attack.

Of course precautions must be made when a threat is clear, but it would be far more effective to have a more focused intelligence agency perform targeted surveillance on the basis of warnings such as the ones provided by the family of the perpetrator in Manchester prior to the bombing. Sweeping mass surveillance and breaking encryption has little to offer by comparison, and wastes valuable resources that could be invested into dealing with known or genuinely suspected threats.

To anyone who understands Digital, we know that by taking this approach to countering terrorism, with the vast amounts of data that are trawled up, it is akin to taking a shot in the dark and hoping for a hole in one.

By giving up our private lives and allowing the threat of terrorism to limit our personal freedoms, we are announcing defeat. Our communities should be coming together in the wake of such a serious tragedy, and politicians should not be playing games with people's emotions around such atrocities. Terrorists seek to disrupt our normal way of life, and as a nation that prides itself on freedom and acceptance, we give in to their tactics by cracking down on our own liberties.

This is why, in the face of adversity, we must stand together and not lose sight of what matters most.

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Read a detailed article about "Why Responding to Terrorism with Curtailed Digital Freedom is Wrong"