Thursday, March 31, 2005

Strange news on Thursday

A bizarre piece of internet crime spotting here at The Guardian. It does raise questions about whether the use of webcams might lead to the reporting of dodgy behaviour. The thing that intrigues me is why somebody in the middle of Australia was watching this anyway. He's only had broadband for 2 weeks; how might you enjoy this novelty? Downloading video clips of the new Dr Who series? Watching something naughty? Nope, this chap wanted to watch a webcam on Exmouth seafront. Now, I don't mean to suggest that Exmouth is anything other than gripping, but I live in the same country and even I couldn't be arsed looking at that.

It also raises issues as to how other cultures might view the crimes seen remotely. In this case, Australia and England probably have similar laws, but I wonder how things might be interpreted between different cultures? Imagine the conversations...

Websurfer: I want to report a crime. There's a group of guys outside a polling station with machine guns, beating up some poor bloke!
Zimbabwean PC: that's just Mr Mugabe's helpful assistants, giving our citizens some helpful advice as they're casting their vote. You'll see, they'll even help him inside, to make sure he fills in the ballot paper correctly.

Websurfer: Please help! There's a bloke in a red rugby shirt, with something green pinned to it, being set upon by a gang of men! They're killing him, it's really vicious! Go and help him. It's on a webcam in the town centre.
Chester PC: Ah, now that would be within the city walls, then sir. And it's after dark. I bet that green thing on the rugby shirt is a leek. No problem sir, it's perfectly legal to kill a Welshman within the Chester city walls after dark.

There are a lot of references to this law on the web, but I can't find a definitive academic reference that proves this (before anybody whose wife has run off with a Welshman sends them anonymous tickets for a visit to Chester Zoo).Although I think the zoo closes well before nightfall, so you would have to have some other ruse to delay them, like hanging a fake banner outside the train station saying that all the trains had been cancelled. And trusting that they wouldn't realise that if the trains had really been cancelled, they would have used the electronic information boards inside the station to announce this, rather than creating a message from a piece of old sheet and some permanent markers. Or maybe you could secretly rig up some very powerful lights around Chester Zoo to mimic daylight, and fool everybody there into thinking it was much earlier than it actually was, and then plunge them into darkness. Anyway.

Websurfer: There's a crowd of people charging down the street fleeing a herd of bulls which has got loose, call the emergency services!
Pamplona PC: What is the problem, senor (no, I don't know how to do that thingy over the n, and I'm not going to learn now)?

Iraq websurfer: There is a scene of chaos before me: baying crowds, violence, women stripped until they are wearing almost nothing, violence casually applied, windows smashed and looting. Where are the forces of law and order?
PC: Yes, sir, a Saturday night in Croydon. Exactly what was your point?

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