2700 – Remain Silent

A few days ago there were reports in the news about a counselor to David Cameron, one of the men who are responsible for the UK’s censorship infrastructure (aka “Porn Filter”), and guess what? He is accused of possessing child pornography. It was all over the news in Europe, but interestingly enough it seems to have been played down in the US. Look for yourself on Google. I have excluded “music” from the search, because the supposed perpetrator shares his name with a rock band. Look at the results: Of course a lot of links from the UK, almost no links from US media. Coincidence? No idea. And if not? What would it mean? I’ve even less of an idea.

And is there something behind those allegations? Did the police find pictures of abused children? Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing that could surprise me when Margaret Thatcher’s and David Cameron’s minions are involved, but even if they found incriminating material, it would prove nothing. No digital file proves anything. That’s another consequence of Snowden’s revelations.

A file is just a sequence of numbers. If you interpret them in a certain way, they may make sense as a text, if you interpret them in another way they may make sense as an image, and if you copy the sequence of numbers to a new file, then you can’t tell the difference between the two. The person who owns a file may be the person who authored the file, may be the person who copied the file, or the person may only be the victim of an attack where a hacker (and in this case it could well be someone paid by a government) has put the incriminating “proof” on his computer. If the attack has been done with enough care, it won’t be possible to tell the difference. Child porn is the Polonium of the digital age and it’s much cheaper.

How cheap is child porn? I don’t know. I have been around the Internets for a long time, and while I can remember having once seen an image (ages ago, posted on some Usenet binary pictures group), it was a B&W image, from the looks from the first half of the last century. I can’t remember any details, but it was clearly pornographic and there was a young boy involved. That’s it. One image. In more than 20 years. You don’t just stumble upon such material. I have also never seen any kind of commercial offer. Nothing. In fact, if I’d want to search for such images, I’d be clueless, and believe me, I am good at searching. It’s part of my job.

On the other hand: there is one organization that we now know to be the probably biggest producer of child porn in the world, and that is GCHQ, the UK ally of the NSA.

How’s that, you ask? Well, in the course of their “Optical Nerve” program they intercepted millions of Yahoo webcam chats. They seemingly did it to try out some face recognition software and, surprise, surprise, they found lots of their victims to be naked and involved in naughty conversations.

I can’t prove it, I have no hard numbers, but just look at today’s children: they have adopted digital conversation like no other generation before. “Sexting” is even a term coined for the exchange of nudity over electronic media. According to Wikipedia, a 2008 survey has found that even then “20% of teens (13-20) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically“. Now, what do you believe is the percentage of teens among those involved in erotic webcam chats?

Her Majesty’s Spooks, most likely the biggest collectors of child porn, at least as long as we don’t know what NSA and all the other agencies store.

Of course they would delete the material, wouldn’t they? Nope, they won’t. They can’t algorithmically tell the difference between different naked parts of the body. Could be a face, could be something else, computers can’t tell.

And besides: for the agencies it is a treasure trove. Want to get rid of an inconvenient politician? No problem. Put some naughty files on his computer, drop a line to the police and the problem is solved.

Can you imagine how incredibly disgusting I find these political realities? How incredibly disillusioned I am? “Disgust” is a word that can’t even begin to describe it.

The Song of the Day is “Remain Silent” by Keb’ Mo’. Hear it on YouTube.