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Security IT

A Chat With Zavilia, a Tool For Identifying Rioters 102

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the crowd-state-opression dept.
HansonMB writes with an interview in Motherboard.tv. From the article: "Social media isn't just great for starting 'social unrest,' it's proving to be quite helpful for quashing it too. Not long after the bricks began to fly in London's latest kerfuffle, locals angry over raging mobs scrambled to assist the police in their attempt to identify street-fighters and free-for-all hooligans ... Now with more than 1,000 people charged over the chaos, a few citizen groups continue to provide web-based rioter identification platforms, in hopes of being good subjects, maintaining the country's pursuit of order, and keeping their neighborhoods safe."
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A Chat With Zavilia, a Tool For Identifying Rioters

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  • misread (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Who else misread that as 'Chavzilla'?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I really wouldn't feel good creating a web based tool which I'd know for sure was going to be used by governments to crack down on legitimate protesters.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuasiSteve (2042606)

      That sword is only double-edged if you believe 'the crowd' would be keen on identifying legitimate protesters as much as they are in identifying rioters.

      Those who would do so would likely still do so if the police simply put up the same picture on their own website.

      This platform is really no different from any other in which individuals are attempted to be identified. Think of the effort to identify the girl who stomped on a kitten, or the guys throwing a dog off of a bridge, etc. It's just on a much larg

      • by guanxi (216397)

        That sword is only double-edged if you believe 'the crowd' would be keen on identifying legitimate protesters as much as they are in identifying rioters. ...

        This platform is really no different from any other in which individuals are attempted to be identified. Think of the effort to identify the girl who stomped on a kitten, or the guys throwing a dog off of a bridge, etc. It's just on a much larger scale because this time it's rioters - of which there were hundreds.

        The online mob will go after anyone who is unpopular, just like a real lynch mob. They aren't making a good judgement about innocence or guilt. Like the looters, they may not care -- it may just be exciting for them to destroy someone else.

        I've seen it on a small scale, where the owner of a community website dedicated to a sports team published the contact information of a 14-year-old poster that he disliked, and his readers responded like a wolf pack and harassed the boy. IIRC it's happened on a large scal

      • by dkleinsc (563838)

        That sword is only double-edged if you believe 'the crowd' would be keen on identifying legitimate protesters as much as they are in identifying rioters.

        What about 'the crowd' identifying people who weren't there at all but happened to knock up somebody's sister a few years back?

    • My guess is that these tools would also be useful for personal army requests, calling in the cops in the middle of the night to wake up someone you are annoyed with. If they really actually work as tools for bringing perpetrators to justice, then they would also work very effectively as tools of harassment and wasting of police time.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Ok, if this riot was truly a bunch of hooligans wrecking the place with no real reason, then yes, prosecute them. Use facial recognition on all those fancy cams Briton has installed and see who you can track down. If they have stolen goods in their house, and such, then law enforcement can figure stuff out.

    What scares me though is: Lets say they've prosecuted the obvious rioters, then they start moving down the chain and start getting people who talked about the riot: "Dude, people are smashing stuff ou
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The recent "riots" were not political protests, just a load of smashing into shops and stealing goods. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth - white goods, food, alchohol, clothing, electronics. And the crime-spree was not limited to robbery, sadly: 3 men were murdered defending their property, police were deliberately run over, people's appartments were torched. Cars, busses and entire shops were burned out. No protest here, no message, no placard waving, just people acting like animals and grabbing wh

      • Well, I can see a message in it. "I feel screwed by society, so I won't play by its rules".

        Be honest, given the choice, would you go looting?

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          Well, I can see a message in it. "I feel screwed by society, so I won't play by its rules".

          Strange... What I read, looked like:

          i'm a chav!!! i'm a CHAAAAV!
          suck my diiiiick!! I'M A CHAV!!

          • Strange... What I read, looked like:

            i'm a chav!!! i'm a CHAAAAV!
            suck my diiiiick!! I'M A CHAV!!

            LOL nice way to put it...same here.

        • by mike2R (721965)
          I'd loot food if I was hungry.

          I wouldn't thieve shoes from fucking Footlocker because I'm not a shit.

          Would you?
          • You do know that various fast food chains actually hand out food for free in the evenings, don't you?

            • Which ones? In the UK?

              • Yeah, after hours. Makes good sense, too. Why throw out food just because you aren't gonna sell it?

                • Yes, ok, I know it makes good sense, and I know lots of people who would appreciate it.

                  So, which ones?

                  • Moved from there now, but IIRC Pret do this. They have loads of shops, but I don't know if it's an official policy. Possibly a number of the Pret lookalikes (eg Eat). Not sure about the supermarket chains. But if you ask a homeless guy, they can probably tell you.

          • Actually, stealing food might even be not illegal according to the law here (it depends highly on the circumstances and what you steal). I guess the idea was to keep bums from filling the prisons for stealing a slice of bread. But I digress.

            I wouldn't go looting. Because my liberty is more valuable than having a new pair of shoes. Which I'd simply buy if I need them. Also, I generally support our legal system and I consider it fair and just.

            I guess they don't.

        • by lexsird (1208192)

          If society has collapsed and there will be no more ANYTHING, looting would be a necessity.

          But to just be looting because I can get away with it, hell no. I look at people like that as animals that need gunned down in the streets. If it's political rioting, that is another issue. But just to be rioting for greed, crime and being a punk, again, hell no. Shooting looters should be a policy, it should be a mandate.

      • by 1s44c (552956)

        The events started as a peaceful protest that was ignored then they escalated with the destruction of 2 police cars. The police shot someone dead and made it look like an execution. This was after they killed 2 other innocent people. Protests were entirely justified but looting wasn't.

        The thing is peacueful protests are ignored, the government don't even acknowledge them. So what's left for the people who are really angry about police and government abuses? Some form of civil disabedience is the only option

        • by Anonymous Coward

          On the second and third day there wasn't any protesting at all, only looting.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        It's Britain not Briton btw.

        It wasn't Britain, it was specifically England. Of the countries that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; only England had riots. There has been a bit of a political strop [newsnetscotland.com] in Scotland because Scotland relies on tourists at this time of the year (Edinburgh Festival, Military Tattoo etc) and there was worry that many would cancel or not come thinking that the riots extended over the border.

      • by lexsird (1208192)

        The recent "riots" were not political protests, just a load of smashing into shops and stealing goods. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth - white goods, food, alchohol, clothing, electronics. And the crime-spree was not limited to robbery, sadly: 3 men were murdered defending their property, police were deliberately run over, people's appartments were torched. Cars, busses and entire shops were burned out. No protest here, no message, no placard waving, just people acting like animals and grabbing whatever they could.

        It's Britain not Briton btw.

        That kind of insanity wouldn't fly here, they would simply be shot dead long before it got out of hand. Not by police necessarily either, but our citizens. You roll into some neighborhoods thinking you are going to riot there like that, you will probably come out in a body bag. Especially if they are torching things. I can't imagine punks surviving trying to torch things in my little town.

        • by iteyoidar (972700)
          Tell that to L.A. [wikipedia.org] or Seattle [wikipedia.org]! Unless you're expecting some sort of Maoist uprising, I don't think anyone's going to bother trying to "roll into" your small towns.
    • by Nursie (632944)

      You tend to need the accused to have been giving specific details in order to prosecute. Times, places, plans etc. Idle chatter is not incitement. I'm pretty sure there are protections in law against the kind of abuses you talk about.

      I agree it's an area of law that will need continuing scrutiny though. Personally I'm glad that the ECHR and various cross-country conventions and declarations of rights all exist in European countries. It doesn't stop them all going wrong at the same time, but it may hold the

    • by gilleain (1310105)

      Use facial recognition on all those fancy cams Briton has installed and see who you can track down.

      Britons live in Britain, not the other way round.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Zavilla instigator clearly doesn't understand IP law, and more specifically, copyright law. References to copyright protection in the original article were positively cringeworthy. I also struggle to see how this will scale if each photo has to be hand annotated, it needs google-style auto face-detection.

    • References to copyright protection in the original article were positively cringeworthy.

      Or perhaps indicative that "IP law" is simply too complicated for most to understand, or that most people have more important things to think about than "IP law" - chances are that the interviewee was not providing legal advice to the project?

  • Freedom of speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CadentOrange (2429626) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:16AM (#37139556)
    If you are free to use social media to organise riots, I am just as free to use the same social media to identify the idiots who rampaged through my neighbourhood. Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences.
    • Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences.

      Then what is it? I'm pretty sure that freedom of speech is nothing more than the ability of someone to say something (some restrictions apply in most cases) without being punished by the government (or something similar).

      • by bytesex (112972)

        Then what is it? I'm pretty sure that freedom of speech is nothing more than the ability of someone to say something (some restrictions apply in most cases) without being punished by the government (or something similar).

        Hint: the answer lies in the '(or something similar)'.

        • What do you mean? I'm pretty sure that freedom of speech is almost useless if authority figures try to censor you by silencing you because you said something that they didn't like (if the law states that what you said was protected speech).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Freedom of speech was given to provide the ability for common man to speak out against authority. To state, in a public forum, that he/she disagrees with the way things are being done.

        Literalists have been abusing the rights to just be dipshits, which is why laws against slander and inciting a riot exist. Hate crimes are just as bad, and one good speaker (see 'cults' as an example) can put the tarnish on a civil need to speak freely.

        Basically, there's always a few asshats that will spoil the whole bunch "

  • Useless interview (Score:5, Insightful)

    by silanea (1241518) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:26AM (#37139580)

    [...] The copyrights have been made on the Zavilia brand name, principle, and technologies. [...]

    [...] Although we cannot comment on exact figures, we can confirm the website peaked at over 100,000 unique visitors. [...]

    [...] We have made contact with the authorities regarding several identifications, although we cannot disclose the exact figure due to security reasons. [...]

    [...] entire documents detailing why Zavilia is “unethical” and “encourages vigilantism.” These remarks are however unfounded, and no damage has been done. [...]

    [...] We do envisage much greater uses for Zavilia. However, as these are currently copyright pending, we cannot disclose any further details. [...]

    Is it just me or is this interview nothing but a stream of useless PR crap? Our platform is so super-secret, 'cause it's copyrighted, y'know, and it does mighty good, but canna tell ya, 'cause it's so super-secret. Yeah, right. Colour me unimpressed.

    • The only thing missing is "and we want a million from VC investors" and it would fit perfectly into the dot.com hype a decade ago.

      • by Ryanrule (1657199)
        Its proper to shoot for at least 100 million these days. I mean if you are going to fleece investors, fleece hard.
    • by dubsnipe (1822200)

      Copyright pending? Does that term actually exist? I thought you had the copyright over something the moment you create it.

      • by silanea (1241518)
        Maybe he meant "Copyright registration pending". But even that would be strange, since brand names are not per se copyrightable AFAIK, they are protected as trademarks or logos, and business models or methods, as far as they can be protected at all, have to be patented, but there is no copyright on business methods. Most likely the person interviewed has no bloody clue about any of those forms of legal matters and just wanted to sound important.
  • The thing i don't understand, why somebody on the internet asks you to commit a crime, for some reason people think it's a marvelous idea and go ahead and do it?

    Was this a copycat of Egypt, etc where people were bored and didn't need a political statement?
    If that is the case then there a far more serious issue regarding ethics and morals then whoever did it, right?

    • The effect of the Internet on many people is described in John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.

      That being said, this did not originate on the Internet. Combine shockingly high unemployment among the poor, the belief that they have no voice in government or the media (recent peaceful protests, apparently, received zero coverage), the ned/chav/yob phenomenon and the reality that lot of lower-class people in Britain are furious that they are being told to bend over and take it because of the auste
  • by iB1 (837987) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:32AM (#37139600)
    So I just went to the zavilla webiste: The main page says "The development of Zavilia: Identify UK Rioters has been temporarily paused due to a substantial decrease in traffic and in user interactions. However, we fully intend to continue development at some point in the near future." In other words, either someone has got to them or there wasn't much of an interest anyway. Also, the old website has what? About 20 photos, most of which seem to have been taken from either Getty or Reuters. I can't exactly see this going anywhere.
  • by aaaaaaargh! (1150173) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:36AM (#37139616)

    Great, the idea of using social media to identify rioters, dissidents and other criminals has already proved very successful in China, another flourishing democracy. Just don't forgot to sent death threats to the rioters, make sure they loose their jobs, and humiliate them publicly before handing them over to the authorities. In combination with censorship this creates exactly the right amount of fear and respect for authorities that is needed to keep the citizens calm.

    • ... and a neat complement to the welcome support Cameron got from the Chinese Govt for his proposal to block social networking sites as they could be used to organise riots.
    • by couchslug (175151)

      Why must everything be "authorities vs. citizens"?

      How about "innocents vs violent thugs"? Am I obliged NOT to ID someone who assaults me, steals my stuff, or burns my or my neighbors business because you think it's oppressive?

      Piss off. It's also perfectly reasonable for employers to fire criminals. If someone cannot be trusted not to loot and burn, why should anyone be obliged to retain them in any position of trust?

      Why should what you DO in public not BE public?

  • ... in hopes of being good subjects...

    Subjects? Can't imagine there are many rioter-identifying subjects [homeoffice.gov.uk]; it's a corner-case of British nationality law.

    I expect they mean citizens [homeoffice.gov.uk], which is something else entirely.

    If you're eligible for a British passport you're a British citizen. British passports say: "Nationality: British Citizen".

  • After a state fair in my area some teenagers organized a flash mob.

    Dozens of them showed up to shop lift food at a local convenience store. None of them had the brains to put a cloth over the cameras in the store.

    The local police chief put the video footage from the store's security cameras up on the web.

    He went on the local TV news to report that by doing so about half of the mob had been identified by neighbors within only a few days.

    Talk about working smarter and not harder...

    • None of this is new. Its called the neighborhood watch or "eyes on the street". Jane Jacobs identified it in 1961.
      • I disagree. It ( the technology ) is new. A neighborhood watch didn't identify those kids, a video put on the *internet* did. Take the internet out of it and those neighbors wouldn't have seen those kids in the flash mob ( created with the aide of the internet ) to identify them.

  • Man: I've bleedin' got one, look! What's that then?
    Postal Clerk: This is a dog license with the word 'dog' crossed out and 'cat' written in in crayon.
    Man: Man didn't have the right form.
    Postal Clerk: What man?
    Man: The man from the cat detector van.
    Postal Clerk: The loony detector van, you mean.
    Man: Look, it's people like you what cause unrest.

It's not so hard to lift yourself by your bootstraps once you're off the ground. -- Daniel B. Luten

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