Mark Bridger and Child Porn

That the Murderer of little April Jones is evil is on record. The Judge said so. Mark Bridger will spend the rest of his life in gaol and rightly so, joining a small group of people who’ve committed terrible sexual crimes against children who will never be released.

There is a lot of talk in the press about what motivated him to do this terrible thing. Of course a man with a sexual interest in children, child rape and murder is going to seek out images depicting such acts. The press then go on to blame “the Internet” and call for Google to redouble efforts to block such images, in an almost perfect demonstration of the post-hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Children were raped and murdered before the Internet. The question is whether such images lead people who would not have otherwise raped and killed children to do so. Is it not just as likely that viewing porn acts as a substitute for the deed?

Does online pornography lead to more child rape and murder? This can be teased out in the numbers, though none of these studies where looking specifically at sex-crimes involving children.

The evidence is clear for all other forms of sexual crime – pornography acts as a substitute, not a complement  for sexual activity.  Availability of online pornography is correlated with lower incidences of rape and other sexual crimes. This has been found in Denmark, Japan and the Czech Republic. It also seems that the USA & Germany saw similar data supporting the hypothesis that sexual violence falls as online pornography becomes more available due to Broadband roll-out. (Google scholar is your friend when conducting this sort of research). The STRONGEST inverse correlations appear to be with sexual violence against children. That is child abuse fell when online pornography became available.

The fact that “porn addiction” has been blamed for killing people’s sex-lives in ‘meat-space’ rather supports this view.

Obviously pornography involving minors is evidence of a real crime – the abuse of minors. That needs to be stamped down on. And more strength to the arm of the law in seeking the perpetrators out. But if it’s clear, and it appears to be, access to virtual sex is a substitute for the real thing, then current laws banning simulated material appear to be misplaced. CGI is that good these days, lives might be saved by allowing production of simulated violent pornography. A great deal more research is needed before I will come down firmly on one side of that debate.

It maybe for example, with the current strong laws surrounding the viewing of such material, only those predisposed may seek it out. Perhaps people will be sucked into viewing ever more extreme material were it freely available, and this would encourage offending behaviour in those not already predisposed.

Whatever happens, it’s certainly not entirely Google’s problem. Google simply cannot ban search phrases, or you’d ban perfectly reasonable searches like those I put into Google scholar to research this article. Porn and especially that involving minors is already filtered, by the Internet Watch Foundation and in the UK Canada and soon Australia, Cleanfeed. Even so, capturing everything illicit is going to be impossible. The Internet is too vast, and too encrypted to police.

Google’s search index is estimated to contain details of around 44-45 billion web pages, although that will include a lot of historical data relating to pages that have since fallen down the Internet memory hole.

By way of comparison, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is estimated to have indexed around 13.5 billion web pages and Yahoo’s index is currently estimated to contain around 10.5 billion web pages.

It’s therefore estimated that the current size of the ‘Indexed web’ – i.e. websites/pages than can be located using a search engine – is somewhere around 15 billion ‘live’ webpages, but this is still just a fraction of the total number of web pages out there and doesn’t include websites that don’t allow themselves to be indexed or which restrict the ability of search engines to index their content, one of the biggest of which Facebook.

As far as registered domain names are concerned, again there are no clear or accurate global figures but to give you some idea of scale, on the 30th May 2013, there were 145,498,970 domains registered for just the five most popular generic top level domains ( ‘.com’, ‘.net’, ‘.org’, ‘.biz’, ‘.info’) and the most popular Country code TLD (‘.us’) and on that same day 143,800 new domains were registered and 112,589 existing domains were deleted, giving a net gain of 31,211 domains, and 189,302 domains were transferred.

Unity Concludes…

… anyone you see demanding that Google should be doing more to block child porn hasn’t got the first fucking clue what they’re talking about.

The problem is one of attribution bias. Child murders are thankfully rare, and therefore notable. People remember them. There’s also the seeking of blame – the idea that monsters exist is uncomfortable. It is comforting that in campaigning against online pornography, you’re helping to prevent the same happening to another little girl. The reality, that you’re probably wasting your time, is depressing. People develop paraphilias, and sometimes these obsessions lead to terrible crimes. They did before the Internet. But the Internet appears to be preventing some of these people acting out on their sickening fantasies.

Mark Bridger will rot in gaol. But there may be little girls like April Jones who are alive now because of the depraved images he viewed before he killed her. That is not a comfortable thought, and what to do with it, I don’t know. But knee-jerk legislation because ‘something must be done’ is never the right response.

Twitter’s first Flash-Crash

Yesterday, some jolly trickster hacked into the Associated Press’s twitter account (@AP) and tweeted

“Breaking: Two explosions in the White House and Barak Obama is injured”

Predictably the market collapsed 0.8%, before rallying on the news that it’s a hoax.

It would be so easy to earn serious money, with almost no chance of getting caught. You need the password. You need to open a trading account for CFDs or Spread-Betting. You need to establish a pattern of trading. You need to have a situation where a $100 a tick position would be entirely normal. You need to open just such a position, shortly before your associate, working from an internet cafe elsewhere, logs into AP’s Twitter and tweets the bogus bomb story.

The fact this happened shortly before the market close suggests the plan was to go long in the final seconds of trading, ensuring another big profit, when the markets open up today on news of the hoax getting around.

As it happened, the hoax was spotted quickly, and the Markets recovered before the close of play. Still, it would be quite possible to make hundreds of thousands of Dollars in a couple of minutes work. This post is of course, an elaborate double bluff.

“Of course I’d do no such thing. Look, I’ve written about it, yer ‘onner.” 

Can anyone get me Reuters’ twitter password?

Why I don’t Read The Papers…

A burglar asked to be sent to gaol because his probation appointments were at 10am and they were interrupting his sleep…. Of course we’re invited to hate the guy;

Shameless Batchelor told the judge he failed to attend the meetings because they were too early in the morning – despite being at 10AM.

The courtroom conversation is dutifully reported in full by the Daily Telegraph;

“I’d rather go to jail and get it out the way, come out and get a fresh start, and not have to do probation and things like that.”
Mr Herbert asked Batchelor: “Have you given up on the order?”
He replied: “Yes.”
Matthew Barnes, prosecuting, told the court: “He has told me that he has insufficient motivation to attempt to comply with the order.
“He is resigned to the suspended sentence being imposed.”

And fair enough, he’s a burglar. So my sympathy is limited. But he’s got a job, working nights and doesn’t finish until 6am, so he’s clearly got a chance of “going straight”. And under those circumstances, 10am probation seems unreasonable. Yet we, the taxpayer have to pay for gaol? Once again, the convenience of the bureaucracy trumps the convenience of those using the “service” and the costs are completely ignored. And someone who knows, agrees: probation officer and blogger, Jim Brown:

it’s the supervising officer who should be being pilloried, not the client. In my humble opinion a young man has needlessly gone to prison, not as a result of any new offences, but because of piss-poor practice. In all honesty a case like this takes my breath away. I can only contemplate as to the content of the Breach Report. What on earth was the Barrister doing to earn his or her money? Why didn’t the Judge use some initiative and demand to speak to the Probation Court Duty Officer? Had I been the said CDO, there is no way I would have allowed this case to proceed without intervening.

The papers lie to you, often by omission or sleight of hand. I didn’t notice that he had a job until the second time I read the piece. You’re being manipulated, people.

Victim’s “Justice”

So a Private Investigator retained by the Whore’s Gazette listened into the Voice-mail messages. This included Slebs: (meh), Politicians (double Meh… indeed this is the very definition of “investigative journalism”). However they did not stick to people in the public eye who should know better; They listened into the voice mails of the (then) missing schoolgirl, Milli Dowler and some of the victims of the 7/7 Bombings, which is pretty despicable, especially as in the former case, it appeared the fact the messages were being opened misled the police and gave sadly false hope to the Dowler family. It goes without saying that this is pretty appalling behaviour, against a number of data-protection & misuse of information laws. It’s also potentially perverting the course of justice. This doesn’t need any extra legislation, or even an emergency debate in parliament (politicians’ phones were involved… they’re pissed off. Sod ’em) Just enforce the laws against the individual PI involved. As for Milliband Minor’s ridiculous demand for an enquiry into “media ethics” – I find the sight of people jumping onto a bandwaggon to serve their partisan interests at the cost of dealing with some real underlying issues, distasteful.

It’s worth pointing out though: This isn’t “HACKING” which involves listening to conversations, something a family member of a Tube-bombing victim openly implied this morning on the ‘Today’ program, without being corrected. If you don’t have a PIN number on your inbox, spend a couple of minutes NOW and put one on. Bingo: the News of the World can’t get at your messages.

It’s not just politicians milking this for all it’s worth. There are two factors at play. This is being given wall to wall coverage on the BBC (but not SKY), and all the papers (except News International titles) because the BBC and fleet-street want to bash their competitors, and especially don’t want News International to buy the portion of BSkyB it doesn’t already own. This is a brute commercial consideration: Newspapers are barely profitable, and struggling. Hurting a competitor might help a bit & sell some papers in the process. For the BBC, it’s defending it’s patch against an increasingly influential and aggressive SKY news. The DG has even put his name to a letter opposing the purchase, which rather put his organisation’s cards face-up on the table. The BBC is even alleging that Murdoch is not “fit & proper”, something which isn’t in the scope of the decision to allow SKY to buy BSkyB. It’s an abuse of its position for the tax (the license fee is a tax in all but name) funded BBC to report in such a self-serving way in a story with a such clear conflict of interest.

There is also a residual leftism of the organisation which would love to make the most of the resignation of Andy Coulson from David Cameron’s team. If you listened to the BBC this morning, you’d think he was still there spinning for the Government, instead of having already fallen on his sword over this issue five months ago. The guy’s already gone. It’s a non-issue for the Prime-Minister.

Finally, this is being run in the media together with the issue of the treatment of the Dowler family at the hands of the defence barrister, and of the issues this story raises, this is the most dangerous. “Victim’s justice” isn’t justice at all. I’m the first to call the police, and the entire criminal justice system “useless” but the fact remains a standard defence in court is “I didn’t do it” and therefore the implication is that someone else did. By introducing reasonable doubt, certainly guilty people have got off. But I’d rather 10 guilty men go free (and they do) than one innocent man go to gaol because the police were allowed to fix the usual suspects up, or the defence had its’s hands tied by laws which prevented relevant questions being asked. As far as sentencing goes the people who should have NO say in the punishment are the victims. The only people I can think of who are worse are politicians. Sentencing should be for the Judge who’s seen the evidence acting according to law and precedent.

Here’s a picture of a Gavel, to annoy ‘The Magistrate‘.

This rush to protect victims in court is going to lead (rightly) to challenges by guilty people on the basis that their defence was hamstrung and may lead to MORE guilty people getting away with it. This is nothing more than an assault on the presumption of innocence. If you’re in court, and expect to see a criminal put away for a long time, expect him to fight – there’s a chance the man in the dock DIDN’T do it. It’s up to the prosecution to prove guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. Lazy investigations, sloppy legal work and all the hallmarks of state-run ANYTHING: time-serving incompetence, are responsible for more miscarriages of justice than overzealous defence barristers who remain a mere scapegoat for incompetent prosecutions.

Hard cases make bad law. One horrible case with a vile defendant should not remove the rights of people to defend themselves vigorously in court, and be presumed innocent until they’re proven guilty.

The Life and Trials Of Julian Assange

Guest post by Mara
Much of the media frenzy surrounding Assange is born of the fact that little is known about him. Thirty nine years old. Australian. No fixed address. Parents ran a touring company. Attended thirty seven schools. Has a child from a failed relationship. Malcolm Rifkind describes him as a ‘frighteningly amoral figure’, Edward Heathcoat-Armory as ‘paranoic and archaic’, one who lives a ‘bizarre peripatetic life’. Assange has been ritualistically demonized by the media as a shadowy, sinister and above all wicked figure who will stop at nothing in order to print a sensational story. In a savage evocation of the McCarthy era, politicians across the world have been baying for his arrest, his silence, and even his blood. It is ironic that some of these politicians, Attorney General Eric Holder who refused to prosecute the CIA for torture in particular, are now mounting a moral crusade using the ‘forces of darkness and light’ narrative to achieve their ends.
The latest move to silence Assange lies in the lap of a Swedish prosecutor who, despite a wealth of contradictory evidence, has issued a European Arrest Warrant in order to prosecute him for the alleged coercion and rape of two women. Prior to the issuing of said warrant, the case had been thrown out by a second Swedish prosecutor for lack of evidence. The first woman invited him to stay at her home, had intercourse with him, and threw a party for him the following evening. The second, evidently starstruck (describing him as ‘interesting, brave and admirable’), invited him to her home and paid for his rail fare in both directions. Later, the two women got together, the first “victim” having attempted to expunge an entry on her blog entitled ‘7 Steps to Get Legal Revenge’ and to erase a Tweet which read ‘Sitting outside … nearly freezing, with the world’s coolest people. It’s pretty amazing!’ They appear to have blown the whistle based on the fact that Assange had Biblical knowledge of them both within a matter of days. Whether this is a case of ‘sexfalla’, which may be loosely translated as a ‘honeytrap’, or two women seething with indignation that Assange shared his sexual favours impartially, there is negligable evidence that any crime was committed. Indeed, Assange has been attempting to meet face-to-face with the Swedish prosecutor for over a year in order to set the record straight.
The typical media response, imbued as it is with a prurient need to know the explicit details of this and every other case involving sex and a kneejerkist Puritannical desire to punish those involved for their morality or lack thereof, has been to define Assange’s character in relation to the allegations. Sex, though a powerful motivation, is not sufficient to explain, or detract, from Assange’s desire to see justice done: to make public a file passed on to him by Bradley Manning, a man whose own character has been torn to shreds, in order that global governance may not get away with covering up its sins. The release of a number of diplomatic telegrams, which has prompted Sarah Palin to call for the death sentence to be imposed on Assange, is both important and necessary. The intelligence that the Obama administration views ours with suspicion, believing that our PM isn’t up to the job and our military is inadequate, has a profound effect on our supposedly ‘joint’ efforts to pacify Afghanistan. Why should we continue to expend resources and lives to assist those who have no faith in us?
The fact that Hilary Clinton deliberately gave orders to pervert the course of justice by covertly obtaining biometric and personal data of UN delegates, including the Secretary General, highlights the fact that the United States believes itself to be above petty legal concerns. Such a profound insult, perversely, may make those waiting to be groped by the TSA at US airports or exposed to radiation via body scanners feel a little more solidarity with the powers-that-be. In relation to Iraq, US troops were commanded not to release details or investigate tortures of Iraqis under an order called ‘Frago 242’. And the latest ‘atrocity’ to be leaked, a list of defence facilities which has been characterised by the US State Department as ‘arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way,’ a move that puts the ‘national security of the United States has been put at risk; the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk; the American people themselves’ at risk, despite the fact that said information has been available in the public domain for a considerable time. The claim that such an act is tantamount to ‘giving a targeting list to groups like al-Qaeda’ is risible. Though it is easy to represent those committing atrocious acts as the Other, an amorphous mass lacking both in intelligence and self-governance, it is more than likely that said group has both access to the Internet and a fair idea of what they want to target.
On balance, I would applaud Assange’s stance. He has, at personal risk, sought to expose the prim-lipped hypocrisy employed by Western governments towards each other, towards those nations they attempt to subdue and subvert in the name of ‘democracy’ and towards their citizens. This information is very much in the national interest. It is in the interest of each and every working man and woman because they are the ones who bear the financial and moral burden, and the after-effects, of governmental decisions taken on their behalf. Far from villifying Assange, we should applaud his endeavours; to hold those responsible for gross travesties of justice, rather than embarking on a witch hunt. We should overcome the Washington-driven jargon that seeks to make a laughing stock of Assange in order to sweep their dirty dealings under the carpet. Media analyst Glenn Greenwald noted that: ‘this kind of character smear (‘he’s not in his right mind,’ pronounced a 25-year-old who sort of knows him) is reserved for people who don’t matter in the world of establishment journalists – i.e., people without power or standing in Washington and, especially, those whom American Government authorities scorn. In official Washington, Assange is a contemptible loser – the Pentagon hates him and wants him destroyed, and therefore the ‘reporters’ who rely on, admire and identify with Pentagon officials immediately adopt that perspective – and that’s why he was the target of this type of attack.’
And, in making such an attack so personal, all accountability passes to the person being demonised. Higher standards need to be employed by those journalists who, despite bleating about impartiality, hop on to whatever political bandwagon happens to be rolling out that week so they gain approval. Where the bravery, where the unflinching honesty, that once used to epitomise reporting, from Deep Throat to the Killing Fields? Ironically, what most party line journalists seem to have overlooked is that in villifying one of their own, they are encouraging the establisment of a system wherein their own right to free speech, should they ever use it, could be revoked. An unhappy notion for the ‘global’ world we live in. And harping on about ‘responsibility’ and the ‘balance of liberty and power’ simply won’t cut it, for if they are willing to shore up the system unquestioningly, they are willing to shore up its abuses of liberty and power too. As Assange stated, ‘when governments stop torturing and killing people, and when corporations stop abusing the legal system, then perhaps it will be time to ask if free-speech activists are accountable.’Guest post by Mara

Jury Trials should Remain an Absolute right.

It’s simple. Declaring someone to be a criminal is not cheap or easy for the state. That IS AS IT SHOULD BE. Of course the system gets gamed, of course people try to get away with naughtiness, but the important thing is that an innocent man evven one accused of a “minor” crime, like shop-lifting gets the protection of a Jury trial, if necessary.

It’s not “just” a shop-lifiting conviction, because a shop-lifting conviction affects a life. You wouldn’t get the best university, you’re denied some vocational courses. You certainly couldn’t do what I do for a living with a “crime of moral turpitude” on your rap sheet. People are still pretty relaxed about narcotic possession and Drunk & Disorderly but for how long?

I’ve no problem with rewards for early guilty pleas, most people that get to magistrates are guilty, and if the process can be expidited more easily then great. But innocent people HAVE to have the opportunity to clear their names in front of a Jury. The “Victim’s Comissioner” is plain wrong. Jury trials are and should remain an absolute right, whatever the cost.