It was only yesterday I commented on James Higham's post about die inoffizielle Mitarbeiter - the 'volunteers' who acted as eyes and ear for East German state. As James reports:
Almost every apartment building in the DDR maintained a kind of superintendent (known as a “Hausbuchbeauftragter”) who kept notes on who visited whom and when. In total, this group included around 2.1 million people, and many of them were willing to share their information. The Volkspolizei also had around 173,000 “voluntary helpers.” In addition, school directors, heads of youth organizations belonging to the “Free German Youth” (FDJ), election helpers and factory heads were also part of the army of potential informants.
My observation was that we should guard against any moves to empowering people to act as voluntary behaviour police.
This morning I awake to the news that the Metropolitan Police and Home Office have launched what the papers are calling a "trollhunter squad" with the intention of responding to 'hate speech' in social media - all part of an 'Online Hate Crime Hub'. Now this is, in one respect, just more of government wanting to control speech but this time there's another chilling aspect - die inoffizielle Mitarbeiter has arrived in England:
A team of volunteers will search out material they deem inappropriate on social networks and report it to the unit. The allegations will then be investigated and the culprits prosecuted, if caught.
That's right folks. A collection of self-appointed guardians of the web will act as informers, snitches, grasses. And any person with any sort of profile - political, business, artistic - will face constant scrutiny from these collaborators with those who want to suppress free speech. Here's a bit more:
...Twitter and Facebook will be asked to help fund a "community" element to the unit, in which volunteers "skilled in the use of social media" will "identify, report and challenge online hate material", it reports. The detectives' role will be "identifying the location of the crime" when online abuse is reported, and refer it to "the appropriate force area and social media providers".
The slow death of free speech in England continues. Just listen and you'll hear: "if you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear" and "hate speech isn't free speech". We will see a step change in online fussbucketry as, with each passing day a new form of 'offensive speech' is discovered, reported to the authorities and punished. It's not just that £1.7m is a lot of money just to protect the sensibilities of some Twitter users but that we're licensing the worst sort of judgemental puritan as agents to enforce an attack on free speech. As I said in a Tweet - welcome to the Twitter Stasi.