Wednesday, 6 July 2011

What if we'd more mobile phones 22 years ago?

The following is a work of fiction as many of the devices used were a thing of science fiction at the time. Or were out of the realms of everyman usage.

It is late in the evening of 15th April 1989, the News of the World editor Patsy Chapman, was calling an emergency meeting of her Editorial team as a result of the day's events. She looked at them and said,"We need a scoop, we need an angle that nobody else will have tomorrow. Go and get me it. Just don't tell me how you get it, just what you get."

Her technology editor started to ring Racal Telecom and BT Mobile asking for the records of any Liverpool based users that were coming up being used in Sheffield. He also checked Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter, while he was waiting, to find the users who were wearing Red, or using the hashtags #FACup, #LFC #Sheffield or #Hillsborough. He noticed that a number of them had posted pictures live from various pubs in the Sheffield area.

He found one really sad picture of a father, taking his son's wristwatch, gold chains, signet ring and newly purchased top of the range trainers away from his son's lifeless body at the temporary morgue. There wasn't really a News of the World story there. But he looked at the face there and noticed that the father was in one of the pictures taken in a pub.

He got the records of the numbers later and cross referenced them with the list of dead as they were being announced. He found the father's name and number on the list. It wasn't late Sunday night that he managed to get hacked into the number and check the voice mails. There was one, it went:

"Get in eight pints for the lads dad we're be arriving in five minutes." 
 The time of the message was 14:27. A headline formed in his head, "Drunken fans stealing from the dead." It was too late to make his own paper, but he called his colleague at The Sun. He told him what he had. The reply came back,

"Great, we've been waiting for our Gotcha! moment on this. The boss wants to get his free season ticket for Old Trafford, this should do it for him."

The two of them laughed and said, "see you at Highbury for the match", before they hung up.

And now the serious bit

Of course Mobile Phones weren't as prevalent as they are now, there were only really two networks and most of the users weren't the sort of people who would turn up to football matches. Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare of course have all only just appeared in the last 10 years, as has the ability to take, never mind upload pictures from your phone.

But 22 years ago, the paper that I normally don't mention on this blog, The Sun, did run that headline, amongst others and a story that was anti-Liverpool fans. A headline that is such a way has led to an effective 22 year boycott of The Unmentionable Paper on Merseyside and for many other Liverpool fans elsewhere.

This News of the World phone hacking story has appears to have affected not only the Milly Dowler case (Walton-on-Thames, Surrey), but also the Soham murders (Cambridgeshire), the 7-7 Attacks (London) and the parents of Madeline McCann (Liverpool again). One wonders if other stories are yet to linked to this, the Cumbrian shootings etc, after all it seems to be a modus operandi of this paper for some time.

There is nationwide outrage this time. There are also the accusations of paying police for information: a criminal offence. We could well be seeing the death knell of the NOTW, but what about News International of which it is part. Rupert Murdoch is in the process of trying to buy the control of BSkyB, will he be allowed to get it. Of course there was outcry when the Business Secretary, Vince Cable originally said publicly he was concerned about allowing it. Many including David Cameron and the Green Party have been caught out saying that this phone hacking incident wasn't all that important in the past. Now we are finding out they may have been disturbing hopeful families, getting extra info from the police for substantial sums of money.

There is a flashmob tomorrow (Thursday) outside the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, 2-4 Cockspur Street, London at 17:30 to hold the Murdoch Empire to account. There is currently a debate going on in the House of Commons into the affair which you can watch here.

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