Non, David, vous n’êtes pas Charlie!

Along with so many other world leaders, David Cameron has made a big point of showing solidarity with the French in the face of the Charlie Hebdo atrocities, claiming to stand for freedom of expression – but anyone who has been following or studying the way his government deals with the press and indeed with freedom of expression generally knows that he’s far from a champion of freedom of expression.

Indeed, rather than championing freedom of expression, Cameron’s government has been actively hostile to it. His is a government that sent agents to a national newspaper’s office to force them to smash computers – an act that could hardly be interpreted as anything but brutal intimidation. This is a government under whose auspices the police have secretly monitored the communications between journalists and their sources.

This is a government that has forced through a law to prevent charities from campaigning on the very subjects for which they were founded, if that campaigning would amount to criticism of government policy. Under that very same law, letters were sent to political bloggers that could also be seen as little more than intimidation.

This is a government that monitors social media traffic to try to stop people protesting about badger culls. This is a government that bans protesting in Parliament Square.

This is a government that has championed – and seems likely to extend support for – a form of internet filtering that not only prevents access to lawful material but not just theoretically but practically has extensively overblocked, preventing access to sites on subjects like sex education. Indeed, even the discussion of subjects like the blocking and censorship of the internet – and circumvention of of this kind of blocking, in some ways the essence of freedom of expression – can and does get blocked by this kind of filtering. One of my own blog posts on the subject was blocked  by just such a system.

This is a government that supports exactly the kind of mass surveillance that studies show chill freedom of speech around the globe – indeed, an extensive report from American PEN demonstrated this just days before the Charlie Hebdo shootings. And what is David Cameron’s immediate reaction to the tragedy in Paris? To support even more of this surveillance.

So no, David, vous n’êtes pas Charlie. You’re very much the opposite. You’re not a champion of freedom of speech. You’re one of its enemies.

19 thoughts on “Non, David, vous n’êtes pas Charlie!

  1. I find interesting the difference in style between Cameron and Blair in presenting their illiberal garbage. Blair was of the quivering lip school, banging on about making ‘tough choices that no one else is brave enough to make’, whereas Cameron is more attaboy, presenting the terrible idea du jour as fresh and new and pretending it has never actually been floated and laughed out of the building before, while passing off all responsibility for wanting it to the security services ‘who really do know best’. Neither is honest, and I doubt either has/had any real understanding of what they’re proposing or its effects, except that it can be used to shut down comment they don’t like.

    And both equally offensive in hijacking the deaths of those who did believe in genuine freedoms and using them to take away those same freedoms.

  2. David Cameron would dearly like to forget the other two words of the French founding principle: He bangs on about Liberté, but ignores Fraternité and Egalité.

  3. Western politicians joining in the march yesterday was not about protecting freedom of speech. Nor was it about them protesting against terrorism, as politicians are often quick to send their civilians to war for obfuscated reasons.

    This was about politicians creating a smokescreen of freedom of speech, while denying our own freedoms of speecg and creating justifications as to why our liberty has to be sacrificed and socieyy needs to undergo further subjugation in the name of freedom. It was about creating future narratives that they will use to justify future wars, yet will have in the grand scheme of things have nothing to do with those wars.

    This narrative will further ostracise and demonise majority groups. What happened in Paris was tragic. But I am sick and tired of politicians using events like this for their own political gain and not as an opportunity to recognise and look at their own practices and how they affect society at large.

  4. I had no idea they were doing some of this, thank you for the information and well-written blog post, with evidence!

    I heard David wants to make apps like snapchat illegal too?

  5. Paul,
    I’m waiting for your blog on the latest pronouncements from Cameron.
    This is the link to Schneier’s article
    Some of the comments are interesting too.

    Skeptical • January 13, 2015 6:14 PM
    The Director of GCHQ from last November:

    And this reply.

    Clive Robinson • January 13, 2015 7:19 PM
    @ Skeptical

    And, if you like conspiracy, scroll a little below that.

    Here is a brief snippet from
    Which gives a flavour of ideas of avoidance, but none quite as succinct or clear as Clive Robinson, which is that secrets can be hidden in clear text by not providing context to the interceptor of the message.

    [–]Grizmoblust 27 points 1 day ago
    CJDNS already exist. It’s waiting for people to use it. It’s not gonna build by itself. lol :p

    [–]Grizmoblust 27 points 1 day ago
    CJDNS already exist. It’s waiting for people to use it. It’s not gonna build by itself. lol :p
    [–]BestUndecided 15 points 1 day ago
    I’m sorry I’m not familiar with that? can you please explain a little more
    [–]Natanael_L 4 points 23 hours ago
    It creates IPv6 addresses based on public keys, the nodes then share details about what other nodes they’re connected to in order to build a network map, then when you want to connect to another node you send a request that only that node can create a valid signed response to and the network forwards that request along a route between the nodes that was calculated.
    Works for mesh networks, VPN:s and anything else you could imagine. It is like a parallel Internet.
    load more comments (1 reply)
    load more comments (8 replies)

    Solutions for governments hell bent on surveillance are characterised as Front Door, Back Door or Golden Keys.
    Each is an affront, each highly unlikely to be effective, and each would impact seriously on competitive capitalism in many different ways. For instance there could be a license system for those allowed to use the Internet. And different categories. Commercial, academic … Can you see that working either in terms of exposing threats or in terms of facilitating competition in a highly innovative arena?
    Well, just conceivably, western governments may cooperate so as to enforce a more or less stable status quo for the existing operators on condition of compliance.
    While blocking all traffic to non conformant area? Without a murmur of complaint?
    I don’t think so.

      1. So you have, and I have now read it. There are subtle points to using blogging. Should I comment here or there? Because what you haven’t really gone into is the legal aspect of this in any detail. I should have detailed this above in my original comment.
        I mentioned ‘Front Door, Back Door or Golden Keys’.
        Let’s take the case of Golden Keys. What this means is that Government subverts PKI (Public key Infrastructure) by allowing certificate awarding authorities to only issue certificates that Government holds a supervening key to – how ever this is achieved.
        As is well known PKI is in any case broken, but it is doubtless broken in such a way that different states have only partial and a competing with one another access.
        Large companies such as Google and Facebook will issue their own certificates and hold their own private keys.
        Because of the demands of their business model and the First Amendment it is difficult for either the US or British authorities to gain access to much of the encrypted traffic. Encrypted data can be intercepted, but if it takes some disproportionate amount of energy to decrypt, even a single message, then computing power is in principle unable to render such data accessible.
        Cameron’s plea is to the US to do something about this, and the plea must be both to the politicians to do what they can, and to NSA to more readily come forward with what they have.
        We don’t know to what degree the US trust the British as, presumably, the trust fluctuates depending on various factors. I assume Snowden revelations being one.
        Again, NSA may be punishing Britain (this country for being forward in the revelations through the Guardian), rather than making pragmatic decisions.
        Since none of this is discussed we can only make guesses, and, just as ‘security services’ (spies) do not trust anyone, we may assume that cooperation, even between these allies, is very fraught. Mistrust, secrets and partial information does not breed cooperation.
        However, the law that we should be able to dig around is in these issues:the meaning of the first amendment to US corporates and the equivalent legal framework for British and European companies. Does RIPA mean that it will be illegal to create transient encrypted communication for which the private key is then discarded?
        How will that be defined?
        Is that even possible given the existing structure of TLS where from
        The TLS Record Protocol provides connection security that has two
        basic properties:

        – The connection is private. Symmetric cryptography is used for
        data encryption (e.g., AES [AES], RC4 [SCH], etc.). The keys for
        this symmetric encryption are generated uniquely for each
        connection and are based on a secret negotiated by another
        protocol (such as the TLS Handshake Protocol). The Record
        Protocol can also be used without encryption.

        So, surely, this means that TLS is based a secret communication for which the keys are then thrown away, this phase of communication complete? How on earth can this be outlawed?
        And if not this then what, precisely? If a politician wishes to pass a law that forbids certain activity it would be a good idea to know precisely what it is that is being proscribed at some point.
        As I argue, it can only be taken as pressure on Google, Facebook and twitter. It is extraordinary that the director of talks about ‘dark places’ on the internet while politicians talk about the ‘google tax’ in a way that is at once vague and menacing.
        With each increment of the ratchet they become less credible, merely finding politically useful targets rather than usefully describing a problem, let alone coming up with any solutions.
        But such talk can have dangerous consequences.

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