JOHN HUMPHRYS: Forget ‘thought crimes’, why can’t police go after the drug lords of Instagram?
Remember Dixon of Dock Green? His friendly smile and ‘Evening all’ and the modest salute at the end of the show?
Kindly old George wouldn’t last 30 seconds in today’s police force. His style of policing went out with black-and-white tellies.
Just as well. PC Dixon wouldn’t know a Taser from a turnip.
Imagine him and his Dock Green colleagues trying to cope with the villainy unearthed by the Mail this week.
It was a classic piece of investigative journalism. A brave undercover reporter risking his own safety to expose the evil of ruthless drug barons targeting small children.
Their aim: to turn them into addicts for super-strength cannabis disguised as harmless sweets. To destroy their innocent young lives in return for vast profits.
One so-called ‘baron’ boasted about kidnapping and chopping off two of the fingers of one of his ‘clients’.
Drug Baron Selamet Mehmetaj, nicknamed ‘The Devil’, (pictured) is a notorious dealer who uses Instagram to sell cannabis
Even more chilling is that this vile trade is being facilitated by Facebook, which owns Instagram. It is on Instagram that the dealers entice children to buy their toxic ‘sweets’.
Some of the ‘sweets’ are as potent as 50 joints. The effect of that on the brain of a developing child can be devastating. And some of these Instagram accounts advertising the drugs have as many as 30,000 followers.
It is a highly sophisticated operation run by ruthless thugs who operate in a world that would have been as foreign to PC Dixon as the Moon landing to a caveman.
But even to people like you and me who are exposed in our daily lives to this new world of cyberspace, it is truly terrifying.
Something we can share with the old-fashioned coppers of Dixon’s era, though, is our trust in that wonderful construct: the rule of law. It is the supreme achievement of our form of government.
The greatest of all political philosophers, Thomas Hobbes, captured its essence when he said it was vital to prevent the anarchy of ‘the war of all against all’.
That was 500 years ago and today we have democratically elected parliaments passing laws that regulate our behaviour, police making sure we obey them and punishment for those who do not.
You could summarise the intention in one phrase: to protect the sheep from the wolves.
A noble objective indeed. But how satisfied are we that it is doing its job?
Let’s just take that Mail investigation for starters. A few obvious questions come to mind.
Why wasn’t it the police who nailed those vicious thugs?
Selamet Mehmetaj has his handcuffs removed and allowed to go free by police after being stopped on the roadside by police. It is not known why or when he was stopped
Why does it take a newspaper with relatively tiny resources compared with our police forces to spot what’s going on, track down at least one of the villains and get him to incriminate himself in front of a concealed camera? If you haven’t seen the video, I urge you to do so. It will make your blood run cold.
If this wasn’t a classic case of society’s innocent sheep needing protecting from the predatory wolves, I don’t know what is.
Have the police lost sight of what they are employed to do?
No doubt they would claim that they are very much on the case and would cite evidence of the hauls of cannabis, cocaine and heroin they have been seizing over recent years.
True enough, but I wonder how much they have NOT seized. The illegal drugs trade is flourishing as never before.
And, as the Mail investigation reveals, that is partly because a new marketplace has been created. It has shifted from the street corner to the phone in every youngster’s pocket.
And the algorithms used by social media sites such as Instagram make it all too easy for dealers to extend their reach; once the innocent victims show even the slightest interest, they are soon offered a vast array of other dealers.
That’s how the algorithm works. The lambs are now much easier targets for the wolves.
So how are the wolves being policed? Facebook, the owners of Instagram, claim they are doing a very good job of it themselves. They say that between April and June this year they removed 2.3 million pieces of drug-sales content from their website.
Quite possibly, but the thug exposed by the Mail still seemed to be doing very nicely. And the charges against the wolves of the social media world go way beyond facilitating drug-dealing.
How many more stories must we read of teenagers harming or even killing themselves because they have been trapped in its poisonous web?
This week Frances Haugen, once a senior boss at Facebook, told MPs the site was ‘unquestionably’ promoting online hate because its algorithm was programmed to prioritise extreme content.
She charged the company with ‘negligence’ and accused it of ‘dancing with data’ when it claimed it was on top of the problem.
Mehmetaj explained how every month he grows up to 2,500 cannabis plants – which he calls his ‘babies’ – including high strength ‘stardog’ and super-potent ‘wedding cake’ (stock image)
Leaked research shows that its own staff believe the company only takes down between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of hate speech and just 0.6 per cent of content that breaks the company’s own rules on violence and incitement.
And Facebook’s reaction to this endless catalogue?
This week its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, announced that the company is changing its name. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.
Maybe he’s scared because MPs are debating a new law to stop social media companies publishing harmful content. It would give Ofcom the power to fine them up to 10 per cent of their global turnover.
But don’t hold your breath. Men like Zuckerberg have the sharpest lawyers on the planet salivating at the prospect of a fight.
Yet it’s the police who are in the front line, protecting us sheep from the less sophisticated wolves: the burglars and the robbers and the rapists.
Their record is not encouraging. Only 8 per cent of crimes ever lead to prosecution — let alone convictions. Aren’t we entitled to ask what else they have been doing?
Well, here’s something. They have been extremely busy dealing with ‘non-crime hate incidents’.
Between 2014 and 2019, they recorded 120,000. But if they are not crimes, why are the police wasting even five minutes of their precious time dealing with them?
The answer is that we live in a society in which some feel they have a right to be protected by the state from being offended by anyone who might disagree with their views.
A society in which a highly respected academic, Professor Kathleen Stock, has just been hounded out of her job at Sussex University by a bunch of so-called activists who decided that she was ‘transphobic’.
A minor affair, surely, set against the horrors of turning our children into brain-damaged drug addicts. Maybe.
But as Thomas Hobbes recognised 500 years ago, the rule of law is inviolable. It is there to protect every single citizen. Even old PC Dixon knew that.
OUR SPIES BETTER PRAY AMAZON CAN DELIVER
Excellent news that Amazon is signing up a new customer.
I’m sure we’ve all had sleepless nights worrying about where Jeff Bezos is going to find his next trillion dollars after his company has finished gobbling up every retailer on the planet.
It’s actually three new customers: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Amazon has signed up three new customers: MI5, MI6 and GCHQ in a deal worth somewhere between £500 million and £1 billion (stock image)
You’ll have spotted that those are the three organisations which protect our national security, which allow us to sleep safely in our beds knowing that if any foreign spies are lurking in the shrubbery, they’ll get their collars felt pretty damn speedily.
The deal is worth a trifling amount by Jeff’s standards: somewhere between £500 million and £1 billion and it’s with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which is the company’s cloud computing arm used for storing data.
It is said to mean that our spies will be able to search through data much more efficiently, using the latest technology such as speech recognition tools.
My only worry is what happens when the system breaks.
Perhaps the secrets will have to be delivered by an Amazon driver to GCHQ one morning. But what if there’s nobody in?
Let’s hope he doesn’t just leave them by the bins.