As the technological realm becomes more pervasive, whom can we trust? Each week, Liberty Nation brings new insight into the fraudulent use of personal data, breaches of privacy, and attempts to filter our perception.
Man Jailed for Sharing Christchurch Video
Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered the social media censorship imposed in the aftermath of religiously motivated terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and New Zealand’s unicameral parliament hastily reacted by outlawing the livestreamed video posted by the Christchurch mosque shooter, as well as initiating the Christchurch Call for international adoption of the policy. After several people were arrested, one man has now been convicted and jailed for the crime of spreading the footage on the internet.
Philip Arps, a local businessman, pleaded guilty to distributing the video and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Christchurch District Court Judge Stephen O’Driscoll said that Arps had sent the video to 30 associates, calling it “awesome” and asking for a body count and crosshairs to be added to the images. Due to his unrepentant attitude, Arps was found to have effectively committed a hate crime. “Your offending glorifies and encourages the mass murder carried out under the pretext of religious and racial hatred,” commented the judge.
Arps’ lawyer Anselm Williams argued that “This court needs to be very careful to sentence Mr. Arps based on what it is that he has actually done, and what he accepts he has done, not on the basis of the views that he holds.”
When interviewed by a probation officer, Arps reportedly likened himself to Nazi leader Rudolf Hess. While it would appear this man’s views are indeed hateful and unpleasant, to say the least, is it right for the state to prevent the spread of these materials? University libraries across the world stock the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, while photographs and videos of Nazi atrocities are widely used in classrooms. Are we to assume that any bookshop selling copies of Mein Kampf is promoting genocide? Don’t major news networks broadcast footage of terrorist attacks and killings? It is only by studying war crimes and terrorist attacks that the public can learn about the causes behind these incidents. As we recently saw with the case of extremism documentarian Ford Fischer, censorship can quickly backfire.
Arps has filed an appeal with the New Zealand High Court.
Real Life Robocop
Robocop is about to hit the streets in search of crime – no, not the cyborg star of the 1987 eponymous sci-fi movie, but rather a cone-shaped automaton that will be deployed to patrol the California city of Huntington Park. The K5 Autonomous Data Machine, nicknamed “HP Robocop,” is joining the local police department to add a law enforcement presence where no human officer is available, as well as aiding investigations.
The device, invented by company Knightscope, combines “Self-Driving Technology + Robotics + Artificial Intelligence” in order to patrol shopping malls, parking lots, resorts, and now public streets for security purposes. Its capabilities include 360° HD live streaming and video recording, license plate recognition, people detection, audio broadcast, thermal anomaly detection and others, such as “Force Multiplying Physical Deterrence.” A short promotional video gives some idea as to how it operates:
The robot was made its debut at a 5K run in May, and has since been helping to monitor a city park. Let’s just hope this new Robocop turns out like its half-human namesake, and not his defective and murderous robot predecessor, the ED-209.
Another video released by Knightscope reveals that simple security scans are far from the end goal: The devices are being developed for a “critical mission” to “predict and prevent” crime before it even occurs.
Robo Traffic Cop
There is more than one police robot in development. Engineer Reuben Brewer has been working with nonprofit research center SRI International to invent a robot that would conduct traffic stops on behalf of human officers. According to a Washington Post report, Brewer designed the GoBetween robot after reading about incidents – particularly race-related ones – in which traffic stops had escalated to violence, and resulted in death or injury. The robot would act as a buffer between police and drivers in order to prevent race-related violence; mounted to a police car, an extendable pole would allow the robot access to the motorist, while the human officer would remain in his or her own vehicle. A spike strip is also extended to prevent the driver from taking off before the encounter is completed.
Brewer told WaPo by email:
“The main advantage of a robot over a human is that physical danger no longer matters. The robot is purely defensive, so it can’t hurt the motorist. If the motorist damages the robot, it’s only money to replace it. People are more dangerous when they’re scared, so the goal is to remove the possibility of being physically hurt so that they’re less scared and less dangerous.”
GoBetween robots are not designed to be fitted with weapons, but are equipped with video cameras, a microphone, barcode scanner (for licenses), signature pad, printer (for tickets), and a speaker. Unlike the HP Robocop, however, police departments are yet to jump at the chance to try out the GoBetween. While Brewer has presented the prototype to four departments, some officers have suggested the device could be easily damaged, or that the device deployment time could give drivers a chance to speed away, while others said adding a feature that could scan the car interior for potentially dangerous or criminal items.
These robot police units are far from intimidating, but one gets the sense that the future of law enforcement is going to be taken further out of human hands. In the U.K. these days, one often hears discussion about how the role of the police has changed; where officers were once seen as stern but fair faces that were key members of local communities, now they are distant and incompetent, hidden behind a vast network of bureaucracy. As departments come to rely more and more on electronic devices and artificial intelligence, the human side of policing will only diminish further. With robots scanning our license plates, faces, and body signatures, it’s easy to feel as if we will all be seen as criminals-in-waiting – especially as they attempt to predict what crimes we may soon commit.
That’s all for this week from You’re Not Alone. Check back in next Monday to find out what’s happening in the digital realm and how it impacts you.
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