Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Play Nice, Your Comment May Be Archived For Later Use Against You

By Darryl Mason

The Daily Telegraph's Tim Blair warns his readers :
Prepare to be watched...
He should also be telling his regular commenters to prepare to have their comments, all their comments, archived and data-mined at a later date by persons unknown. And not just the comments they leave now, but all the comments they have ever left at a Tim Blair blog.

It seems he's only just discovered that government agencies, including ASIO, monitor Australian blogs, and in particular, the posted comments.

Tim Blair won't tell his readers that the widespread trials and use of such online monitoring technology, and key word recognition programs, became reality during the lead-up to the Iraq War.

The surveillance of Australian blogs is not exactly a new thing. Whatever prime minister Kevin Rudd allows such programs to become, they began in the Howard era.

Blair should tell his readers that he's known for years that all comments at his blog were being monitored, and archived, by government agencies, right through the last four years of the Howard era.

Blair also failed to inform his readers that some of their more violent, or violently insane comments, might come back to haunt them one day, might in fact be used against them, to prosecute or persecute them. That they were written under aliases may make no difference at all in a courtroom.

Rupert Murdoch has already shown that privacy is all but a fiction at MySpace, and his worldwide media empire, presumably also including Tim Blair's blog at the Daily Telegraph, have something of an open agreement with local government agencies to offer what help they legally can to track down someone who has posted threats of violence against politicians, or public figures, at any of Murdoch's online media. Those loudly wishing to kill movie stars and necklace green activists also get red-flagged. Such comments might not make it online, but they are not forgotten, nor do they disappear.

Prolific commenters at blogs, say on a story about Islamic terrorism or why "something must be done" about Rudd, are routinely monitored and followed online by any number of government intelligence agencies and private agencies. They're not just looking for "terrorists" anymore, now they're looking for "extremists".

In March, 2004, Tim Blair enthusiastically promoted ASIO's recruiting of online spies, not perhaps understanding that some of those who signed up would probably be monitoring his own site for threats of violence or "hate speech" a few years later.

The joke is that Blair ever believed such monitoring of online comments would stop at sniffing out possible Islamic terrorists, and not go after those who want Islam banned, or get publicly furious about tens of thousands of Muslims immigrating to Australia.

There's a New Terrorism, of which many millions may already be likely suspects, because the War On Terror was never meant to only stop at nabbing the suicidally jihad-crazed, it was always about introducing laws and widespread surveillance to go after "extremists" (as then President Bush began calling terrorists in 2007).

If you think the definition of "terrorist" is loose in government legislation, try to find examples of behaviour that define you as an "extremist". The word "extremist" has come into common usage by world leaders because "terrorist" was almost too specific.

Depending on where you are in the world, "Extremist"covers religion-crazed church burners and airline bombers, American libertarians and Ron Paul supporters, anti-abortion activists and animal liberationists, anarchists and anti-globalisationists, drug-dealing bikers and Afghanistan-based beheaders, anti-cannabis prohibition marchers and gun-rights patriots.

Unspecified thought crimes will get you flagged, watched and followed across the internet.

Everyone is a potential suspect when the prosecution of thought crimes becomes a policing and crime prevention reality.

As is our reality now.