Saturday 7 August 2010

Summertime – and time to censor the pranksters

Warning- Don’t try this at home – or anywhere else, for that matter.

School holidays are upon us – and some pranksters are about causing not only mischief, but also problems that could place so much pressure on the emergency services that lives could be at risk.

What promoted me to write this blog was a thought that I’ve come across a prank which could be spread like wildfire across the internet, so this may well be one of those rare instances where it is necessary to censor (or deny access to) material that has been published on the internet.

The message that has caused recent concern appeared on a social networking site where a member has placed a message suggesting that by dialling 14-19-99 the caller gets free tops up to their mobile phone.

In reality the numbers dialled do the following. The first digits dialled [141] are used within the United Kingdom to suppress the telephone number of the phone making a call – so that the caller’s number is not given out. The next set of digits [999] is the emergency number used in the United Kingdom.

Actually, 141 works every time to block the caller’s telephone except when calling the emergency services on 999.

Within the United Kingdom it is a criminal offence to make erroneous calls to the emergency services. There is also an offence of aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring others to commit any such offence.

The effect has been to cause a significant load of unnecessary calls on the emergency services – and obviously when operators are dealing with them, they are not able to deal with the real emergencies.

What have the hoaxed have to say on their social networking sites, having fallen for the prank? Comments include “hahaha im such a dik ed i done dat” and “looooool”. They may find it funny, but others don’t.

I doubt that the people behind hoax actually appreciated the distress they were causing to genuine emergency callers. But considerable distress is being caused, and that to me seems a sufficiently good reason for an internet censor to intervene – for the public good.

Here endeth today’s lesson.