Director of Public Prosecutions issues new social media guidance

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has launched new guidance on the prosecution of offences involving social media.

The revised guidelines cover cases where offenders set up fake profiles in the names of others, as well as advising prosecutors on the use of social media in new offences, such as revenge pornography and controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.

Alison Saunders says that the new guidance is essential. “Online communication is developing at such a fast pace, new ways of targeting and abusing individuals online are constantly emerging,” she said. “We are seeing more and more cases where social media is being used as a method to facilitate both existing and new offences.
It is vital that prosecutors consider the bigger picture when looking at evidence and examine both the online and offline behaviour pattern of the defendant.

Alison Saunders is the Director of Public Prosecutions.
GOING PUBLIC: Alison Saunders is the Director of Public Prosecutions. Courtesy: Obtained from YouTube.

As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders has faced criticism and controversy around the handling of trials for rape and sexual assault. The Crown Prosecution Service has been criticised for being too eager to bring cases for perverting the course of justice against those who have falsely accused others of rape, including the case of Eleanor de Freitas, who killed herself after the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take over a private prosecution brought against her by the man she accused, despite her having a mental illness.

Alison Saunders justified the new guidance. “Online abuse is cowardly and can be deeply upsetting to the victim,” she said. “Worryingly we have seen an increase in the use of cyber-enabled crime in cases related to Violence against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse.
“Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable.

Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender.
Our guidelines are under constant review and continuously updated to ensure prosecutors have clear advice on new methods of committing crimes.

In April 2015, Saunders was criticized for her decision to not prosecute Greville Janner on child sexual abuse charges despite his meeting the evidential test for prosecution, citing his poor health, as well as for dropping charges against nine journalists as part of the Operation Elveden case.

Lands’ End ‘cleaning away’ affiliates

Clothing brand Lands’ End has announced that it is culling a lot of its affiliates from its Tradedoubler affiliate marketing scheme.

The news came as a shock to some of the publishers of Lands’ End adverts on Tradedoubler, who had otherwise been committed to the brand.

A spokesperson for Lands’ End clothing at Tradedoubler said the cull was necessary. “The Lands’ End program currently is being cleaned as the client decided to focus on the top affiliates,” they said.

Lands' End Clothing
CLEAN OUT: Lands’ End Clothing says they are focussing only on their highest performing affiliates on Tradedoubler. Courtesy: Lands’ End.

Lands’ End is an American clothing retailer based in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, that specializes in casual clothing, luggage, and home furnishings. The majority of Lands’ End’s business is conducted through mail order and Internet sales, but the company also runs more than a dozen retail operations, primarily in the Upper Midwest, along with international shops in the UK, Germany, Japan, France and Austria.

Ask.com Acquires Largest Global Q&A Social Network Ask.fm

Today Ask.com, the leading brand for online questions and answers and an operating business of IAC, announced it acquired Ask.fm, the world’s largest Q&A social network, which facilitates question and answer exchange across its global user base of 180 million monthly unique users. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ask.fm has grown organically since its inception four years ago to reach 180 million monthly unique users in more than 150 countries around the world, with its largest user base in the United States.

Available on the web and as a mobile app, Ask.fm generates an estimated 20,000 questions per minute with approximately 45 percent of its mobile monthly active users logging in daily. To date, the mobile app has been downloaded more than 40 million times.

Doug Leeds is the chief executive officer of Ask.com. “This acquisition extends Ask.com’s Q&A brand leadership to Ask.fm’s massive mobile-focused social platform,” he said. “It’s a natural entry into a market segment and platform where Ask.com has been looking to expand.
Ask.fm has seen phenomenal usage and engagement because of its compelling take on social expression: describing yourself through the lens of what others want to know about you.
Now under Ask.com leadership, the plan for unlocking its true potential will focus on making the experience even more engaging, while significantly increasing the investment in safety.

Users of the immensely popular service create profiles to connect and engage with others through a question and answer format. Unlike other social networks, users on Ask.fm express themselves by choosing to respond to questions, which can be asked anonymously. Once approved by the user, questions and answers are posted to an individual’s public profile, enabling a unique form of self-expression.

Ask.fm was not previously affiliated in any way with Ask.com or its parent company IAC. In connection with the transaction, existing outside Ask.fm investor Rubylight will retain a minority interest in the business. Ask.fm’s founders will no longer be involved in its operations or retain any equity.

In connection with pursuing the acquisition, Ask.com partnered with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and MarylandAttorney General Doug Gansler in the creation of parallel agreements under which Ask.fm will implement a set of best practices focused on increasing the safety of its services.

Announced today, the agreements underscore Ask.com’s commitment to partnering with government and law enforcement in an effort to create a safer and more engaging product experience. General Schneiderman is one of the attorneys. “Today’s agreement shows once again that regulators can work with technology companies both to encourage innovation and protect consumers, including our youngest digital citizens,” he said. “I applaud Ask.com’s leadership in working with our office to design a program that protects Ask.fm users from cyberbullying and other harmful content.
We would hope that this collaboration serves as a useful model for other companies in the digital space.

12 years jail for knifeman who struck in street and park

A “dangerous” man has been jailed for 12 years for two vicious knife attacks – including one in which he teamed up with his girlfriend to lure a Londoner to a Birmingham park with a series of flirtatious Facebook posts.

Afahan Hussain slashed a man across the face with a Stanley knife in Soho Road last August in an unprovoked attack just weeks after a park robbery where he threatened a man – tempted from the capital by Hussain’s callous partner Haseena Aziz – with a meat cleaver.

The Londoner met 28-year-old honey-trap Aziz in parkland near the Handsworth flyover on 15 June last year having been persuaded to make the trip north under the impression she was keen on striking up a relationship. But shortly after taking a bench seat Hussain – who was lying in wait – charged at the 25-year-old, punched and head-butted him, before holding a cleaver to his face and demanding his phone and cash.

Phone and social media enquiries led West Midlands Police detectives to the pair who were later charged with robbery. They were found guilty at Birmingham Crown Court on 2 June. The jury heard how cruel Aziz laughed as she watched the attack and then waded in herself by kicking the man in the groin – and both later sent texts mocking him for falling for their set-up.

And just weeks after the park robbery gold-toothed Hussain slashed a stranger across the face in a seemingly motiveless street attack. He shoulder barged a man to the floor in Soho Road in the early hours of August 7 and as the 27-year-old scrambled to his feet Hussain pulled out a knife and slashed him down the left side of his face, severing an artery and narrowly missing his left eye.

Bleeding heavily, he ran to Thornhill Road police station for help and firearms officers were deployed to provide emergency Fast Aid – an advanced form of first aid that’s a feature of all armed police training – before paramedics arrived. They helped stem the bleeding and doctors later said the attack could have proved fatal due to the significant blood loss.

A week later the victim spotted Hussain through a bedroom window whilst recuperating at his girlfriend’s house in Hockley’s South Road. He watched as the 29-year-old entered a neighbouring house and, minutes later, police officers arrived to find him lounging on a sofa.

Hussain denied the offence but the victim’s recollection of his attacker’s distinctive gold tooth proved crucial and today (August 1) he was jailed for a total of 12 years having been found guilty of wounding with intent to cause GBH and robbery. Aziz was found guilty of robbery and jailed for four years.

Detective Constable Sara Caldwell investigated the Soho Road attack. “It was completely unprovoked…the man was walking with a friend to a local shop to buy cigarettes when Hussain deliberately barged into him and lashed out with a knife,” she said. “The victim suffered significant blood loss, nerve damage and has lost sensation on the left side of his face. It was an outrageous attack.
“Anyone who carries a knife in public is potentially putting themselves and others in danger and can expect to be jailed, even if they don’t strike out with it in anger.
“The judge described Hussain as a dangerous man and a risk to the public…he will rightly spend many years behind bars and be subject to an extended licence period upon his eventual release.”

Unemployed Hussain accepted being shown on CCTV in Soho Road at the time of the attack – just after 1am on Wednesday 7 August – but denied being involved or seeing the man being set upon. However, he was found guilty by a unanimous jury after a five-day trial in February at Birmingham Crown Court; sentencing was delayed due to him standing trial on June 2 alongside Aziz for the Handsworth park robbery.

USW Student sets up autism school in Uganda

AUTISM MASTER: Fredrick Sembatya has set up an autism school in Uganda following his studies in Wales. Courtesy: University of South Wales.
AUTISM MASTER: Fredrick Sembatya has set up an autism school in Uganda following his studies in Wales. Courtesy: University of South Wales.

A Masters student at the University of South Wales has set up a school for autistic children in his home country of Uganda.

Fredrick Sembatya, who will graduate from the MA in Autism in September, devotes his time to raising awareness of autism in the East African country, where very little is known about the spectrum disorder.

He teaches parents the skills and interventions they can use with their children by organising workshops and providing them with helpful resources, as well as writing articles in the local press and regularly appearing on TV shows to talk about autism.

Fredrick is currently writing a guide for parents and guardians as well as medical professionals, in order to provide an insight into autism within literature that is widely available to the community.

He has now helped several children and young adults from the age of three to 21, in areas such as special needs education, behavioural management, social skills training and self-help skills, as well as speech, language and communication.

Many of them are now communicating well, with some attending mainstream school settings. “I feel blessed whenever I change the life of someone with autism,” Fredrick said. “I hope that my guide will give direction to parents, teachers and medical professionals in Uganda on how to work with autistic children and young adults.”

The University of South Wales is one of the only institutions in the UK to offer a Masters degree in Autism. Fredrick had the opportunity to study the degree after winning a scholarship, and says it was a ‘dream come true’. “Autism is one of the most challenging conditions in the world, with no known cause or cure,” he said. “These challenges leave communities such as those in Uganda with very few people knowing about autism, who are left with no choice but to rely on traditional or non-evidence based approaches to define, diagnose and manage it.”

Thanks to his studies at the University of South Wales, Fredrick was able to learn about some of the evidence-based interventions that can be used to help children and young people with autism. “Because of the lack of information on autism in Uganda, some parents resort to using ‘witchcraft’ as a means of managing the condition, because they wrongly believe their children are possessed by demons,” he said. “That is why it is vitally important that more is done to educate communities about autism and prevent parents from using the services of ‘witch doctors’ for spiritual interventions.
“I am so grateful to the University for shaping my career and my future. My studies have enabled me to change the lives of people with autism as well as their families.”

Fredrick and his students appeared on NTV television earlier this month when they took part in a sports gala, demonstrating what children with autism can achieve in the world of sport and providing more information about the disorder. For more details on Fredrick’s work at the Teens and Tots Neuro Development centre in Uganda, visit www.teensandtotscenter.co.ug.

Pop star Jessie J supports North Yorkshire Police Anti Bullying Campaign

ANTI-BULLYING: Jessie J supports North Yorkshire Police Anti Bullying Campaign. Courtesy: Eva Rinaldi
ANTI-BULLYING: Jessie J supports North Yorkshire Police Anti Bullying Campaign. Courtesy: Eva Rinaldi

Pop star Jessie J gave her support to North Yorkshire Police’s Anti-Bullying Campaign when she performed at the Scarborough Open Air Theatre on Wednesday 25 June 2014.

Before the concert, three Police Officers from North Yorkshire Police met Jessie J in her dressing room where they discussed the importance of tackling bullying and their work with delivering on going anti-bullying messages to schools, youth clubs, guides and colleges.

During her performance Jessie J supported the North Yorkshire Police Anti-Bullying Campaign and wore their grey coloured wrist band which says ‘Be a Leader not a Follower‘ during the concert to show her backing.

The wrist bands were funded by a donation of £500 from the Richard Fox Memorial Fund and a £100 donation from Eastfield Parish Council. The wrist bands have been distributed to young people by North Yorkshire Police as an attempt to prevent bullying which includes cyber bullying.

During the concert, Jessie J explained to the audience that North Yorkshire Police had asked for her support with their ‘Anti-Bullying Campaign‘, before telling the audience that “It is not a campaign, It should be a way of life“.

Jessie J asked the audience to ‘think of others‘ and told a personal story of when she was bullied at a younger age and how she wrote songs and poems to cope with her feelings. The audience supported and continued to cheer whilst she performed her hit song ‘Who’s Laughing Now‘ which was written as a result of her own bullying experiences when her skin turned green as a side effect from medication to treat her heart condition.

PC Sara Widdrington is a Police Youth Officer for North Yorkshire Police. “We were delighted when Jessie J agreed to support our Anti-Bullying Campaign during her concert, her music and her genuine outlook in life is a true inspiration to us all,” she said. “Her support reinforces our message that bullying is a cowardly act and should not be tolerated.
Tackling bullying is everyone’s responsibility and if you know of anyone who is being bullied either verbally, physically or via electronic communications speak out and get some help.

Chancellor unveils $25M for University Enterprise Zone

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt. Hon George Osborne MP, was at the University of Liverpool today to announce a package of measures to support the city’s science and transport infrastructure.

He announced that the University of Liverpool, in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), has been successful in a bid to create one of four University Enterprise Zones, with $9 million (£5 million) match funding from government. The $25 million (£15 million) facility will house and support new high tech businesses around ‘sensor technologies’.

Sensors are the crucial link between technological devices and the world around them, capturing data on a whole host of areas such as temperature, humidity and pressure. They can be used in everything from home security systems to medical technology and high value manufacturing.

‘Sensor City’ will help inventions go from the lab to the factory floor even faster, and act as a shop window for foreign investment into the city’s high tech start-ups.

Professor Stephen Holloway led the bid for Liverpool. “Creating a new space where ideas from our sensor research laboratories can be transformed into new start-ups is a very exciting prospect for both universities and provides great opportunities for our students and staff,” he said.

Following the announcement, Mr Osborne met with researchers from the University’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics to learn about developments in sensor technologies and explore Liverpool’s laboratories.

Professor Robin Leatherbarrow, the LJMU PVC for Scholarship, Research and Knowledge Transfer, said: “This is a tremendous success for Liverpool and a superb example of how our two universities can work together in an area where we each have considerable complementary strengths.”

The Chancellor was also in the city to unveil a $58.7 million (£34.4 million) transport package as part of the Atlantic Gateway project, which is building greater connections between Liverpool and Manchester.

ICO raids SIM farm blamed for 350,000 messages

The ICO seized hundreds of SIM cards today, after raiding a SIM farm in offices in Wolverhampton.

Initial estimates suggest the equipment could have been used to send over 350,000 nuisance text messages, though the total may have been more than a million.

Computer equipment and paperwork were seized, and a residential address was also searched. The investigation continues.

Andy Curry is Enforcement Manager at the ICO. “What we’ve seized today backs the intelligence we had that hundreds of thousands of nuisance messages were coming from this address,” he said. “The rules on sending messages are clear, and if the evidence proves the law has been broken, we will issue a sizeable fine against those responsible.

The raid was prompted by intelligence supported by reports using the ‘7726’ tool, that allows mobile phone users to report spam text messages by forwarding the messages to 7726 (spelling out SPAM).

Andy Curry said that action could be taken by the public to help the ICO. “This shows why reporting messages to us and your mobile network operator is so crucial,” he said. “Without the reports we got through the 7726 system, we wouldn’t have been able to carry out this raid today.

The raid follows an announcement by the ICO on Tuesday that a Yorkshire direct marketing firm and a Devon PPI claims company were told they face fines totalling £140,000 for breaching electronic marketing rules. The companies were linked to thousands of nuisance marketing calls and prompted over 1,200 reports to the ICO and the Telephone Preference Service.

Football fury on Twitter

Twitter has been filled with severe criticism of Germany and the referee in the Germany v Portugal football match as part of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The giving of a red card when German player, Thomas Muller, dived to the ground when there was little contact with him and the Portugal player, Pepe, who made subsequent contact with Muller, led to negative reactions on Twitter.

Football fan and keen traveller, Matt Pickles said: “A modern day reason to hate Germany as a ‘sporting’ nation. Despicable, play-acting cheat.” John O’Sullivan said: “Pepe has put Portugal in all sorts…but muller what a clown” And Bryan “Pepes red card is UNACCEPTABLE, Muller is a little flopper but pepe needs to keep his mouth shut ”

Internet trolling expert, Jonathan Bishop, said during the game that if there were anything grossly offensive posted to Twitter about a player, little could be done to remove it. “Twitter’s report feature does not allow the censorship of any posts that the person reporting is not connected to,” he said. “So at present it is possible for any of the footballers to be trolled when they are on the pitch and there will be nothing they can do if they are trolled.
“The best think the players could do to prevent abuse while they are playing is to have their accounts managed by their public relations staff, who can ask for them to be deleted on their behalf.”

UK Government cybersecurity criticised

The UK Government has been criticised over its handling of the out-break of a serious computer ‘virus.’

The website designated to help the public deal with the threat could not cope with the demand, leading some experts to question whether the government is prepared for future instances of cyber-terrorism.

Security expert Graham Cluley said the incident should have been handled differently. “Get Safe Online massively dropped the ball,” he said. “If the government is going to rely upon Get Safe Online to distribute internet security advice, the site needs to invest in the infrastructure required to remain accessible at all times, every day of the year, because you never know when the next big security issue will crop up – and when the public will need advice urgently.

Get Safe Online is UK Government funded with support from the private sector, including PayPal, Barclays and Microsoft. “The site is backed by the government and industry players,” Cluley said. “The resources should be available to keep the site running even in times of high activity.
I hope they’ve learnt their lesson, and that it won’t happen again.”