Snoopers’ Charter: invasion of privacy or for your safety?

TL;DR the “snoopers’ charter” is a proposed new law which allows spies to see the websites you visit without a warrant.


Snoopers’ what?

It’s officially called the Investigatory Powers Bill. It increases the amount of online activity the government can track and monitor.

Announced in the Queen’s Speech, the snoopers’ charter is designed to help the authorities tackle terrorism. According to them, at least.

Why the sudden need to redefine what powers are legal? Current laws are out of date and whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that our spy agencies engaged in mass collection of data. Questionable behaviour and possibly illegal.


As it stands

snoopers charter, george clooney peers over a hill

Government wants to implement a ‘snoopers’ charter’ and track online activity… We hope George Clooney is the one snooping on us!

Right now the rules on what spies are allowed to do are very messy. Most were written before the rise of the internet and social messaging apps like WhatsApp.

Early in 2015 an independent report said “time to start over” with a comprehensive law outlining what powers the spooks should have.

The government’s view is that technological advances (think: social media, instant messaging) are allowing terrorists and criminals to communicate undetected.

In 2011, the London Riots were partly coordinated by people using private chat on Blackberry Messenger.

Currently spies can listen in to your phone calls and intercept your emails if they get a warrant signed by the Home Secretary. These are only approved if the government thinks you are a threat to national security. Don’t take it personally.

Phone providers also keep records of who you call and when. Spies and police can request to access these records. The government now want internet providers do the same thing for all websites we visit.


What would the snoopers’ charter allow?

If passed into law internet providers will have to record and store information every website we visit. Here’s the bit everyone’s talking about: police and security services will not need a warrant to view these internet connection records.

However these powers will only be used to determine if we’re doing something illegal. Not just to see which news sites we prefer – Scenes of Reason, obviously 😉

Only the homepage of the website will be stored. For example, spies would be able to see that you visited but not the specific articles you looked at or who you spoke to. Here’s Home Secretary Theresa May explaining:


Though as the tweet below shows, you can still learn a lot from the home pages people visit;



The bill also allows the “bulk” collection of data for the first time in law;



This is the collection of LOTS of data in the hope that it contains information relevant to police/spy investigations. AKA the activity that Edward Snowden uncoveredNeedle in a haystack, anyone?



The snoopers’ charter also clarifies the powers of the state to use “equipment interference powers”. Basically hacking into your computer.

Communication companies will have a legal duty to assist spies to hack into the devices of criminal suspects. You heard that right; your network provider would have to help James Bond gain access your phone.

Previous versions of the snoopers’ charter threatened to ban apps likes WhatsApp. The reason being spies and the cops can’t access messages sent via these apps due to the encryption that they use. The new bill doesn’t go that far.

Instead it suggests that the government would be able to request information, even if encrypted. How the hell this would work or if it’s possible we don’t know.

If you love your reading the full 229 pages of the draft snoopers’ charter, ahem, sorry – the draft Investigatory Powers Bill is available to view online. Happy reading.


Should I be worried?

If you are a terrorist or criminal then, yeah.

snoopers charter, law abiding citizen, gerard butler, gif of gerard butler winking

Law abiding citizens don’t need to fear the new bill… not you Gerard!

If you are a law-abiding citizen (please, no jokes about the Gerard Butler film) the government say you don’t need to worry.

However civil rights groups are already saying that it’s making it too easy for the government to spy on innocent people. Expect lots of debate in the coming months over the criteria for defining someone as a suspect.

As companies will have to store communication data for up to a year, others are worried about the risk of this data being stolen. When 15-year-olds are hacking phone companies perhaps this is a valid concern.

Others say that it could lead to a massive database where everyone’s communications are logged. Obviously the government says this won’t happen. Good one, guys, feel a lot better about that now.

Considering that previous versions of the snoopers’ charter included ideas like spies being able to access communications in real-time you might think this new version is a lot tamer.

Labour’s Andy Burnham says the new bill broadly gets the balance right.

The bill does includes a “double lock” to ensure that these new powers won’t be used for the forces of evil. Government ministers will give the green light to more intrusive surveillance. This decision also need to be okayed by a judge.

This is apart from emergencies where a minister could authorise spying immediately, without a judge’s say-so. The judge would then have five days to review the case.

There will also be safeguards for “sensitive professions” for those handling confidential information. Like doctors with medical records and journalists protecting sources. We sure feel sensitive.

However, not all are convinced. Shami Chakrabarti from campaign group Liberty calls the snoopers’ charter a “breath-taking attack on the internet security of every man, woman and child in our country.” Guess you can’t please them all.


Join the snoopers’ charter debate:


Snoopers’ Charter Decoded: new laws mean all your internet activity will be logged.

If you don’t want to be traced you could always go into the Deep Web.

Should the UK government have the power to collect masses of communication data? If it’s for the greater good does that make it OK? Post or tweet us your answers and we promise not to pass them to the government.

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The weekend means two things: The hangover breakfast and hours spent on social media. However you should probably think before you post. As recent events show that being careless on social media can leave you unemployed, arrested or even dead.


Location, Location, Location.

Two IS soldiers one with a balaclava. Tagline "no filter"

A social media fail led to US forces bombing the location of IS soldiers

We all love a good selfie. Especially when we’re in a glamorous location. But if you are a member of a rebel terrorist group, it might be best to stay off Twitter.

This week the location of an Islamic State hideout was busted after an IS fighter decided to post a selfie.

US spies recognised the background and within 24 hours they had bombed the area.

If alive, the IS fighter probably hasn’t had any new follower requests.



Similarly, a Russian soldier gave the game away when he posted on Instagram from Ukraine. You can find out all about the Russia/Ukraine saga right here, but in a nutshell Russia was NOT supposed to be in Ukraine. They’d even denied they had soldiers in the country.

Social Media Fail by Alexander Sotkin revealed that he was in Ukraine with Russian soldiers

The social media fail which revealed Russian soldiers might be somewhere they shouldn’t


VICE news even used social media to track down Russian soldiers;


Come Fly With Me

Everyone loves a good prank. Pretend to be someone else and wind them up. Classic banter. A fourteen year old girl decided to take it to a whole new level and tweeted a threat to an airline as a joke.

As you can imagine this very quickly backfired.

Teenage girl tweets an airline pretending to be a terrorist. They pass on her details to the FBI: Social Media Fail

Airline Fail: Don’t pretend to be a terrorist


Don’t worry though, she had things covered.


Social Media Fail - the girl who tweeted pretending to be a terrorist then blocked the FBI

Good plan.

However, this didn’t stop her from being arrested. Nice try though.


Hackers gonna hack

Hacker Chris Roberts commits a Social Media Fail and was arrested. His tweet looked like he was going to hack into the WIFI of a plane

Chris Roberts was about to get hacked off

Bragging about your skills is never cool. But if your skill is hacking… maybe keep it on the down low. Computer expert Chris Robert’s wasn’t expecting the response he got when he posted this tweet to the right:

Yeah, we don’t really understand it either. But apparently it refers to a weakness in the airplane WI-FI system which could allow a hacker to take over the flight controls.

It’s like every plane disaster movie you’ve ever seen rolled into one.

The US authorities didn’t take kindly to this and arrested Roberts as soon as he landed. Then confiscated his laptop.

Oh, and if you want the low down on hacking you can read our guide. You’re like totally welcome.


Funeral = Not A Photo-Op


David Cameron's Social Media Fail - getting a selfie with Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Denmark

“Did you get my good side?”

It was all going so well for David Cameron. Leader of the Conservative party, then Prime Minister, he was finally invited to one of the biggest public events in history: Nelson Mandela’s funeral. What could possibly go wrong?


What better way to show your respect to a dead world leader than selfie-ing up with US President Barack Obama and Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt?


David Cameron's Social Media Fail - getting a selfie with Barack Obama and the Prime Minister of Denmark

Say Cheese!



The world didn’t take too well to this social media fail and Cameron later tried to save face by suggesting the photo be auctioned off to charity.

Bidding starts at 1p, any takers?

Don’t think President Obama got off the hook, however. Just look at the frown on his wife’s face. He’s in big trouble.





David Cameron also took flak after the Downing Street official Facebook page changed its profile picture to an image of the prime minister wearing a Remembrance Day poppy. Poppies are worn to honour those who gave their lives in war and conflict.

David Cameron's social media fail with a poppy photo-shopped onto an existing image

Spot the difference

The problem? Turns out the poppy was actually photo-shopped onto an existing image. Awkward!


By-Election Bye Bye


Emily Thornberry MP's tweet about Rochester features a white van and three England flags.

A political social media fail led to the resignation of Emily Thornberry

It’s not just the Prime Minister who found out that Politics and Social Media fails really don’t mix. Labour MP Emily Thornberry lost her job in the Shadow Cabinet for tweeting this picture of a white van and some England flags.

Thornberry had travelled up to support the Labour party in a by-election. (What is this I hear you say? Take a look at The By-Election: Decoded)

Residents of Rochester were furious at the tweet and many thought Thornberry was making a snooty comment about the working classes.

Then a “helpful” journalist decided to point out it wasn’t the first time she had tweeted about England flags.


Maybe she just really likes flags. Maybe.


Queen Elizabeth II is (not) DEAD

Yeah, OK, maybe not. But BBC journalist Ahmen Khawaja decided to send a tweet saying exactly that.

Tween From Ahmen Khawaja stating that Queen Elizabeth II is dead

Killing a royal is the ultimate Social Media Fail

Turns out the BBC was just running a rehearsal to work out how they would cover an event such as the Queen’s death. Not weird at all. The rehearsal coincided with Queenie’s annual medical check up.

Khawaja’s version of events; she got pranked. #likelystory


Learnings: Social Media Fails can be fun.

If you take fun to mean “deadly dangerous”.

Could Instagramming your brunch lead to you being arrested? More importantly  – is anyone actually using Pinterest? Answers in 140 characters or less.


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Political Spin: How the Media made your general election choice

Political Spin: Tomorrow, May 7th, millions of people will go to the polls and vote in the 2015 General Election. But will your vote have been influenced by the media?


The Media: TV, Online, Newspapers. They have much more influence over your vote than you might think.


It’s on the TV so it must be true.

It seems you can’t turn on the TV without seeing politicians out and about, making speeches and more importantly meeting voters. What you don’t see is that the majority of encounters shown on TV are carefully stage-managed – with no detail left to chance.



Sometimes this is done by the broadcasters. They need a story they can sell to the public so an audience’s questions are often vetted by the broadcast team to ensure it fits within their narrative. More often things will be managed behind the scenes by the parties themselves. For example, the recent BBC interviews with the party leaders where the politicians chose the location, in this case inside their homes… you know portraying the whole “caring, loving family man” character.
Vice News takes us behind the scenes of the political spin machine…


TV broadcasters have to keep to strict rules when it comes to election coverage – to make sure they don’t unfairly influence voters. However, that hasn’t stopped politicians accusing TV channels of bias in the run up to this election.


Political Spin: You Spin Me Right Round

Political Spin is a Magic Trick: Making you believe everything went their way.

Take any major political event – e.g. the leaders’ debates. The different parties seem to disagree over the result.

Read their version of events and you’ll go away thinking their candidate was the winner. Until you hear or read the other side of the story. Politicians run around the “spin room” where the journalists write-up the day’s events. They attempt to get sound bites and points of view embedded into the news as quickly as possible.






Rule of Political Spin: Make sure you get your story in first. Most politicians are so obvious when “spinning a story” that it’s easy enough to see through what they are doing. It’s harder to spot when you’re hearing it from a source you trust…


Tweet, Tweet

Political Spin-doctors often use social media as a tool to release images, statements and attacks on their rivals. When you see these it’s often because they’ve been shared by someone you know. You may not trust the political party – but you trust your mate to have shared or re-tweeted a good article. And so you read it. Like it. Share it. And so it continues…




These pieces are filled with short phrases such as “Long Term Economic Plan” “Coalition of Chaos” and “Britain succeeds when working people succeed” which can be easily repeated and shared. #RepeatEnoughTimesAndPeopleWillBelieveIt


Political Spin: So don’t believe everything you read…

Newspapers support different political parties. Most of the time who they pick is decided by whoever OWNS the newspaper.

Case Study: Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch owns News Corporation – the company who own The Sunday Times and The Sun. Murdoch has been linked to David Cameron several times, and in 2012 it came out that the pair had met five more times than Cameron has previously admitted. The Sunday Times has now backed the Conservatives. See how it works?

In another case The Telegraph published a letter from 100 top business leaders who gave support to David Cameron. The Telegraph has backed the Conservatives. In retaliation, Labour published an open letter from 100 “working people” who want Ed Miliband as PM. This was sent to The Guardian, a newspaper which has now told people to vote Labour.

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a pattern here…

See who the other newspapers are supporting in the General Election


Political Spin: Get a Celebrity friend

It all started with Martin Freeman from the Hobbit and Sherlock backing Labour in a video. TV commentator Katie Hopkins entered the fray – saying she would leave the country if Ed Miliband got in as PM. Love her or hate her, this endorsement of the Tories seemingly back-fired as some people found this reason enough to vote Labour in itself.






Comedian and activist Russell Brand started out by telling people NOT to vote. Then he had a last-minute change of heart and backed Labour after a meeting with Ed Miliband.


A screenshot from youtube channel the Trews show Russell Brand with Labour leader Ed Miliband. Some people have seen this as an act of political spin

Political Spin: Russell Brand backed Labour at the last-minute

Was this a genuine change of heart or was this political spin set up by Labour PR? We’ll never know – but with over a million subscribers, Brand is a force to be reckoned with. It’s difficult to know if celebrity endorsements actually influence voters, but events like these are likely to boost morale of party members.


What can I do to avoid political spin?

It’s all down to you.

Be aware that when you read or watch something the way it is edited will have an effect on what you see.

Here at Scenes of Reason we created a series: Defining the Political Parties

We interviewed young members of each party – asking them ALL the same questions and edited the videos in EXACTLY the same way.

If that’s not enough, we even decoded the manifestos to tell you what the hell it all meant. You’re so welcome.


But even better – search online for your local candidate. Attend a last-minute Hustings event (where local candidates take questions from the public and debate) or find them online. Ask them a question about something that is important to you.

And make sure you vote!

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