back to article London cops waste £2.1m on thought crime unit – and they want volunteer informers

The Metropolitan Police is to spend £2.1m of public money funding a unit that will actively investigate “offensive” comments on Twitter and Facebook, according to reports. Backed by a team of “volunteers”, the Met's new unit will actively seek out anything “deemed inappropriate” on social media services, according to the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why I post all my offensive comments on El Reg.

    1. stanimir

      ...and you leave yourself open to the offense

      of getting down voted.

  2. Chris G Silver badge
    Big Brother

    EL REG!

    IF YOU DON'T STOP PRINTING THIS CRAP, I'M GONna,, go and read the next article if that's all right with you?

    1. Ralph B

      Re: EL REG!

      OH GET IN THE SEA will you. It's a lovely day and a nice splash about would be just the ticket, don't you think?

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: EL REG!

        OH GET IN THE SEA will you

        I think you forget that you're on a tech site here.

        The correct form is Get in the C:

        (and have a look around, but DON'T OPEN THE FOLDER NAMED FLUFFYKITTENSNOTPORNHONESTMUM)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: EL REG!

          "The correct form is Get in the C:"

          Oooohh, you're # today!

  3. Adam 52 Silver badge

    I suspect (hope) this is the Met grabbing PR and extra Home Office funding for moving some people around.

    They'd have had to be doing this anyway and much better to have a dedicated low-priority team than having response officers running around doing it when they should be doing something useful.

    In general the Met is quite good at keeping the front line out of the streets. Whether that's a good thing because you get faster response times or bad because it leads to a stormtrooper attitude is up for debate.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Dear Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

    You are a hypocritical, over paid, headline grabbing muppet.

    "https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/oct/14/met-police-chief-cuts-safety-public"

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3391986/Met-Police-chief-orders-65-000-Range-Rover-despite-warning-budget-cuts-leave-country-risk-criminals-terrorists.html

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Dear Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe

      >You are a hypocritical, over paid, headline grabbing muppet.

      Careful, that could now be regarded as a terrorist threat.

      Or at the very least offensive to muppets

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this why we had a Moderatrix here?

    Still missed...

    1. Hollerithevo

      We still love you Ms Bee!

      What can we do to lure you back, besides not acting like priqs?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: We still love you Ms Bee!

        I understand she was disappointed in the lack of brains in our community.

        1. P. Lee
          Angel

          Re: We still love you Ms Bee!

          I hear she's moved on from taking down posts, to taking down US warplanes.

      2. Scott 53

        Re: We still love you Ms Bee!

        She responded directly to one of my posts once. That was a good day.

    2. x 7

      Moderatrix ?

      Is that like a Dominatrix dressed in 1960's fashion?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So could this not be countered by simply adding the words "I hope" in front of any comments?

    I hope you get in the sea.

    1. David Nash

      "I hope..."

      No, because it's all founded on the complainant (calling them a victim is too strong) being "offended" and they can take equal offence even if you "hope".

    2. paulf
      Joke

      Slightly off topic but I like the way Viz usually get away with the kind of outrageous claims that would land other publications in the dock - they just attribute everything to an unreliable, ficticious source:

      "Our source was on his twelfth pint when he made the completely untrue claim that <insert celebrity name here> liked to have sex with goats on a regular basis. 'The <celebrity> also has sex with rabbits', he lied to our reporter."

  7. Jason Bloomberg

    Vigilantism

    “There’s a risk of online vigilantism, where people who are offended by the least thing will have a licence to report it to the police.”

    Everyone has a license to do that already.

    Vigilantes are those who decide what is a crime and deliver punishment. In this case it is more 'nark', 'grass', or 'informant' than 'vigilante'. Those recruited will simply be providing information and the police will decide if there is an offence and, with the CPS, whether that should be pursued. No one seems to be proposing that Mr Angry can hit the Dislike button and the target will go straight to jail.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Vigilantism

      > Those recruited will simply be providing information

      I think you mean "noise".

      That sound you heard is an army of on-line do-gooders jerking off.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Vigilantism

      Anybody familiar with the term "Blockwart"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Vigilantism

        more like "curtain twitcher"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Vigilantism

      But when did you last here of the CPS not prosecuting someone the police wanted prosecuted, that wasn't really high profile?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Betray friends, family and, strangers, win points. And you know what points mean? Prizes!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A Stasi-like State in the making...

    I'm so glad that Brexit gave us our country back.

    With this news and our departure from the European Court of Human Rights, our already 'secret courts', a determination to use our Security Services to spy on our texts, email, voice calls and social media messages and contacts, energy meter usage, vehicles we are driving, along with from/to where, I'm sure that the Brexiters will delight in the U.K. we 'got back'...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

      We aren't leaving the european court of human rights. It is an entirely separate organisation to the European Union. The two cooperate, but they are not the same thing.

      May herself said she wouldn't be campaigning to leave it.

      Of course, given that countries like Russia are full members of the Convention and theoretically under the judicial oversight of the Court, yet get away with literal murder on a regular basis, one wonders how effective it actually is.

      1. Teiwaz

        Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

        "May herself said she wouldn't be campaigning to leave it."

        - Was it not reported she said she'd like to stay in the EEC but leave the EHCR early in the Brexit campaign? She kept quiet through most of the rest of it.

        Going by the push for Surveillance during her tenure at the Home Office, she's not one to let go of an idea.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

          "Going by the push for Surveillance during her tenure at the Home Office, she's not one to let go of an idea."

          Yup, because of her enthusiasm for the mass surveillance of the people she is supposed to be serving (Democracy - we've heard of it), my first thought, upon her taking up her new post, was 'Prime Sinister'

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

            "my first thought, upon her taking up her new post, was 'Prime Sinister'" - or maybe just "pry minister" - almost everyone has pronounced it like that for years.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

          On the launch of her campaign for PM, she stated that there was no support for leaving the ECHR (either the court or the convention) and that she would not be pushing for it.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

            "no support for leaving the ECHR"

            Translation: "I've just realised we can't leave it because of existing treaty commitments."

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

            "On the launch of her campaign for PM, she stated that there was no support for leaving the ECHR (either the court or the convention) and that she would not be pushing for it."

            Yes, a typical politicians statement. She's on record as wanting out of the Human Rights Act and hence the ECHR, but she's not going to push for that because she knew she'd never have won the PM position with that as an election promise.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

              She doesn't want to leave it - she just wants to make it clear that it doesn't apply to her government

          3. Tom 64
            Big Brother

            Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

            > "she stated that there was no support for leaving" ...

            Not sure about you AC, but I can't believe anything the comes out of a Conservative politicians' mouth. Even if it were chunder, I'd doubt the veracity of it.

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

      "I'm so glad that Brexit gave"

      Dick.

      This isn't anything to do with state control, it is just a predictable extension of the politically correct bullshit games politicians and officials play all day.

      The "you can't say that" brigade being so desperate to display their correctness now think it acceptable to use the law and tax payers money to make sure people "can't say that".

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: A Stasi-like State in the making...

      "With this news and our departure from the European Court of Human Rights"

      Another AC with reading problems.

  10. Kubla Cant Silver badge

    No evidence necessary

    An interesting article in The Spectator (paywall, probably - extract below) recently pointed out that "Hate Crime" is unique in requiring no evidence. So how come it costs £2.1m to investigate?

    The police’s ‘Hate Crime Operational Guidance’ now stresses that the victim’s perception is the deciding factor in whether something is measured as a hate crime. No evidence is required. ‘Evidence of… hostility is not required for an incident or crime to be recorded as a hate crime or hate incident,’ the guidance says. ‘[The] perception of the victim, or any other person, is the defining factor… the victim does not have to justify or provide evidence of their belief, and police officers or staff should not directly challenge this perception.’ So you don’t need actual evidence to prove hate crime, just a feeling. The police are discouraged from asking for evidence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No evidence necessary

      We should all tell the Met how we feel threatened by the Daily Mail, and see how long that clause lasts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No evidence necessary

      "So you don’t need actual evidence to prove hate crime, just a feeling."

      The public consultation draft of the Sexual Offences Bill in 2003 included a virtual "victim" - the hypothetically most vulnerable person who could be imagined. They didn't have to be present - in fact no one needed to be present for the offence of exposure to have been committed. Nor did there need to be any intent to cause alarm or distress.

      Objections caused that low threshold of evidence to be modified for the final wording of the Act.

      1. David Roberts Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: No evidence necessary

        So you are saying that no one else has to be present for the crime of "exposure" to take place?

        So, presumably, you would have to give yourself up?

        Mumble.....if a tree falls in the forest and nobody..........mumble.

        I once had a piss against a tree trunk when out walking. Nobody else was there. Should I give myself up?

    3. SkippyBing

      Re: No evidence necessary

      Nice thing about the Spectator website, once you've had your quota of free articles and the pay wall kicks in you can just use 'view source' in your browser to read the rest of it.

    4. Gray
      Holmes

      Re: No evidence necessary

      So right. The "victim" is self-evidential. Here in the US, sexual harassment charges are based purely on the perception of the victim: hence to make a comment (while still half asleep prior to that second cup of morning coffee) "Good morning, Miss Jones. You certainly look nice today!" is an indefensible punishable offense of sexual harassment if Miss Jones perceives it to be!

      So get used to it. I'm sure that the first moment our Congress manages to reassemble itself following our quadrennial self-flagellant silly-season of trumpeting and braying, they'll add "deviant speech" to our list of self-incriminating offenses.

      1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

        Re: No evidence necessary

        "Good morning, Miss Jones. You certainly look nice today!" is an indefensible punishable offense of sexual harassment if Miss Jones perceives it to be!

        It's worse than that. The guidelines say "perception of the victim, or any other person". Even if Miss Jones likes the compliment, even if she blushes and says "Thank you kindly, Sir. Fancy a quickie in the stationery cupboard?", it's open season for anyone within earshot to get the Police round and have you cuffed before you've finished that second cup of coffee.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: No evidence necessary

          And this extends that so that if the NSA are listening in through your hacked cellphone and THEY think it offensive it's a crime

  11. Trollslayer

    East Germany

    Just saying.

  12. Aaiieeee
    Unhappy

    I spent far too long

    on that get in the sea twitter feed. Whilst it is pretty inane it does highlight the kind of bollocks that people get excited about (or at least highlights the kind of things people are told they should get excited about).

  13. The Tea Lady
    Holmes

    High Inquisitor

    Delores Umbridge

    1. hplasm
      Happy

      Re: High Inquisitor

      Dolores (May) Umbridge. Nee Palpatine.

      1. MK_E

        Re: High Inquisitor

        When she showed up with that grey suit and the pearls all I could see was Mallory Archer.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Death and rape threats aside, this'll just be abused.

    Remember, the UK hates anything it finds subjectively "offensive."

    Posting something like "'It'll be our little secret.' whispered Daddy." on Twitter is literally worse than Hitler...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      ...how we all laughed at the farce and idiocy of punishing someone who "threatened" to blow up Robin Hood airport and how it could never happen again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        >"threatened" to blow up Robin Hood airport and how it could never happen again.

        I hereby call upon the Great Whippet, protector of S Yorks, to destroy t'abomination that is Robin Hood airport.

        Anon - cos

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hypocrites much ?

    Now that The Register appears to understand the importance of stopping thought crime persecutions, can we expect a full apology for having supported the disgraceful sacking of Sir Tim Hunt ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hypocrites much ?

      Don't be silly, he should be burnt at the stake of course.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hypocrites much ?

        In the old days, that would have been "He should be bloody well hung", but double entendres are of course now banned in case that nutty schoolboy / lesbian from Nottingham chalks you down for "hate crime".

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Hypocrites much ?

          >"He should be bloody well hung",

          Is that a threat or a statement of desire ?

  16. Tikimon
    FAIL

    Everything offends SOMEone...

    This will end up as a general purpose way for anyone to try to ruin the life of anyone they don't like. And as we know, once an accusation's made the cops proceed like blind automatons, you have a criminal record now, and good luck clearing your name.

    Yanno, for all the yammer about bringing people together, governments sure pass a lot of laws that drive us all apart, don't they?

    1. Roj Blake

      Re: Everything offends SOMEone...

      Divide and conquer, the oldest trick in the book.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This has benefits...

    Right now, we spend hours each day as operational copsdealing with hate crimes, threats,etc, reported from users of social media. Many in fairness are proper threats or abuse, so this unit should in theory, release more cops back on to the streets and out from behind a computer.

    Hopefully.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This has benefits...

      But they could get stabbed!

  18. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Proposed new crime

    Taking (and driving away) of umbrage.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Proposed new crime

      Using social media with intent?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Proposed new crime

        "Using social media with intent?"

        What about caravans?

        1. hplasm
          Coat

          Re: Proposed new crime

          "Using social media with intent?

          What about caravans?"

          No signal in them.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sad state of the UK

    It is quite sad that the UK is slowly going to be a repressive state.

    Anon.. as I .. errr. have nothing to hide.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Sad state of the UK

      Slowly going to be?

      It's been that way quite a while already

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Re: Sad state of the UK

      If you have nothing to hide....

      You've led a really boring life.

  20. FredBloggs61

    I don't agree with everything this guy says, but....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceS_jkKjIgo

  21. Banksy
    Happy

    Name Suggestion

    How about Online Hate Crime Unit Not Terrorist Scum. I'll leave you to work out the acronym.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How is this a "thought crime unit"?

    Is a threat via Twitter somehow less serious that one delivered through the post, or via a phone call?

    1. Bigg Phill

      Re: How is this a "thought crime unit"?

      If you publish your phone number and home address on the internet then no, I suppose not...

      ... However most of us don't do that so when somebody receives a threat through the post it's deemed very serious as the person who made the threat knows where you live and so there's a reasonable chance they might follow up on the threat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How is this a "thought crime unit"?

        You might be surprised how easy it is to find where people live based on social media information if you know where to dig. It is very easy to link someone's Twitter handle to their Facebook, which can be used to find out in what city they live. Even if they don't explicitly list that info you can often find it based on who their friends are, places they've been, pictures they have doing day to day stuff like walking the dog.

        Once you have it narrowed down that to level, public records for stuff like home ownership, vehicle registration and so forth can provide the exact address. I'm sure a little social engineering would probably work with the utility companies, they don't treat your address as privileged information and in fact when I've called they've told me my address and asked to confirm it! Assuming a threat on Twitter is meaningless because the one making the threat has no possible way to locate a victim is foolish.

        Obviously most people aren't going to call the police for an offhand comment, just like most people won't call the police if you get a crank call with a threat. But if something sounds legitimate and serious you should have the right to call the cops and have a proper investigation done, just like you would if they called your cell at 3am. Maybe it turns out the guy making the threat lives 10,000 miles away, in which case you might sleep easier figuring it will be harder to carry out than if the guy who lives 10 miles away.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: How is this a "thought crime unit"?

          And "obviously" nobody would ever get prosecuted for blowing off steam in a tweet about wanting an airport to get their act together.

          Yet it did actually happen.

          Laws like this are dangerous.

          Putting together a group who's entire purpose is to prosecute people for posting things online is worse, because they will find something to justify their existence.

  23. Omar Smith
    Joke

    The Metropolitan Police are a ..

    Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM and the Metropolitan Police are a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: The Metropolitan Police are a ..

      That is a comment almost, but not entirely, unlike tea a thought crime.

  24. Dave Bell

    The story misses so much of the context.

    There is a lot of abusive commenting on social media, much of it repeated and directed at particular people that may well be a breach of the particular site's Terms of Service. And the companies seem to do fuck all to enforce their own rules.

    This isn't one guy saying something rude. These are sustained verbal assaults by relentless mobs.

    There's a problem. I know people who have been victims, the blatant cases have a scale and level which goes way beyond what most of us would say. The fears of intrusion are based on these misconceptions.

    I am not sure the informants are a good idea. It would be better if the police took steps that gave victims confidence that the law would be enforced, and encouraged these assaults to be reported.

    Do some research: take a look at the case of somebody such as Milo Yiannopoulos, treating both sides with a degree of scepticism, as the Police should do in a similar case. Judge it on the evidence, not on your fears or wild claims of censorship by the state.

    I am not sure I trust The Register on this, their story seems conveniently ignorant of such cases. And I am not sure I trust the Police. But having them move in may have a lot to do with the failures of the company and the community. Billions for capitalism. Not one cent for civilisation.

    1. JustWondering

      Re: The story misses so much of the context.

      @ Dave: It is good to have something to deal with those extreme cases, but my concern here is crime with no actual complainant. You could be having a conversation with someone where neither of you are offended, and have some creeper dropping a dime for revenge or just sport.

      I think the only informant should be the person that is being wronged. Then you just have to hope the police can tell the difference between a problem and someone being a twat.

  25. x 7

    well, we all know people who use Farcebook and Twatter are all braindead incompetents with personality problems, social awareness issues, and overdeveloped right wrists.

    In ancient Greece the Spartans would have chucked them over the cliff edge in an eugenic attempt to preserve racial vitality

    1. Maty
      Headmaster

      '... in an eugenic attempt to preserve racial vitality.'

      While not disagreeing with the extreme Spartan proclivity toward practical eugenics, what 'race' are we talking about here? The Spartans did not see themselves as a separate race. Overall, the Spartans were that branch of Greeks called Dorians, but they didn't show any great fondness for other Dorians, yet alone trying to keep that race 'vital'.

      As for chucking people off cliffs as a punishment, that was the Romans. Google 'Tarpeian Rock' for details.

  26. JustWondering
    Thumb Down

    The Butthurt Bobbies?

    I think that covers it.

  27. scrubber

    Please, please, please can I be the manager ...

    ... I'd just set my autoreply to be: "That's not a crime, you imbecile" and collect the 50k.

    Incidentally, if telling a Labour MP to "go into the sea" is a death threat then is telling them to go fuck themselves a rape threat? Because they really should all go fuck themselves. And the tories. And any libs still around. But especially the SNP.

    1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

      If where you live

      making death threats is not a crime I'm glad I don't live there.

  28. David Roberts Silver badge
    Joke

    Only abuse people in different countries (apart from the USA?)

    Just wondering how they intend to police this across national borders.

    We all know that the USA considers that it's laws apply worldwide, however.

    Just a minute; if I offend one of the brain dead dickhead Merkin commentards can I be extradited?

    Joke alert to help with my appeal.

    P.S. As they can't be arsed in the UK to do anything about international cold callers and scammers what chance is there that they will do anything about international Twitterati?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021