Joanna Shields, Britain’s internet safety and security minister, insists that she isn’t trying to clamp down on people’s freedoms.
Shields, who wants to try and protect people, particularly children, from online pedophiles and terrorist groups, said regulation is “never the right solution.”
The former managing director at Google and Facebook gave a talk at the Brilliant Minds conference in Stockholm last Friday, where she admitted: “You have to raise issues that make people immediately think you’re one of those people who wants to limit people’s civil liberties, or right of expression. It’s actually not the case, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to solve the problem.
“I am the biggest believer of free and open internet. I will be a champion of that till the day I die.”
Shields said she wants to “leverage technology” to solve “really challenging problems.” She added: “What we’re doing is trying to turn technology against the bad guys.”
Shields did not specify what she means by “turn technology against the bad guys” but it’s possible that she was referring to giving UK intelligence agencies additional powers and tools to spy on people. It’s also possible that she wants ISPs (internet service providers) and social networks to step up their own monitoring efforts.
“It is outrageous to me that paedophiles are able to groom children online en masse,” said Shields. “That things like live streaming sexual abuse are even possible enrages me. What is clear is that in order to challenge this evil in the world we have to unite as companies, governments, and NGOs, and all come together in a shared purpose. Everyone has to do his or her part because we want to maintain the freedom of the Internet.
“Like anything else that’s been amplified by the connected world, forces of evil are also in a position to leverage the great things we all use. Extremist groups like Daesh have become a global brand. They have leveraged the same tools that have enabled great technologies and causes to be born and move around the world and unite people. They have been able to manipulate that same technology to go deep into a child’s bedroom, and with propaganda move them from this place of innocence to where they are believers of this in their own home, or on their own mobile phones.”
Shields, who was a digital advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron from June 2014 until May 2015, was also asked how she felt about being called “Cameron’s cutie.” She responded with: “I think that’s really sad when you’re 54-years-old. I mean 25 years of work and experience and that’s what they pick out. It’s actually really embarrassing.”
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