The government's ideas always seem to appear in a steady stream of weird trends. It's like they have one idea about how we can "make the world a better place," and then they mistakenly apply it to every possible scenario they can think of.
Take intellectual property, for example, which really hadn't been a topic most people were interested in discussing throughout the past few years. Then the government introduced the Stop Online Piracy Act and suddenly opinions on intellectual property were all the rage. The once-unknown Recording Industry of America became Public Enemy No. 1, and pirates around the world became digitized martyrs of sorts. Popular websites' participation in the unifying blackout protest turned the web into a 24-hour chaos period, and the bill was dropped.
This made the government mad, so they decided to keep at it and shut down Megaupload so that undergraduates -- who don't have enough money to purchase the DVD seasons either way -- can't watch Entourage while they eat lunch between classes.
A few months later The Pirate Bay got wind of news that Swedish law enforcers had received a warrant to raid its headquarters, leading the organization's executives to mock government officials in a blog post:
The reason that we get the leaks is usually that the whistleblowers do not agree with what is going on. Something that the governments should have in mind -- even your own people do not agree.
This made the government mad again. And thus the second version of SOPA was born.
The list goes on and on, but you get my point. Once the government gets involved in something, they take the idea to the extreme. This time it isn't piracy -- it's video games.
Since the United States v. Jones case ruled that police officers can't monitor people's movements through GPS trackers without a warrant, they secretly tried to track people's movements through their cell phones without a warrant. And then the American Civil Liberties Union found out that they were still participating in this illegal activity, so now the government is trying to do it through video games.
Sound like a joke? I wish it were.
A few days ago, it came to light that the Department of Homeland Security had awarded a contract worth more than $177,000 to the California-based Obscure Technologies. The goal is to create a tool that will allow the government to extract information from consoles, but, as the president of the company explained, "We're not sure how complicated it is."
Turns out it's not too difficult to perform surgery on Xbox 360s, but why contract-block yourself with messy details?
The purpose, they say, is to block terrorists from communicating over these multiplayer databases. Spokesmen have insisted that the contract will only target gaming consoles sold by foreigners and that analysts will disregard any information found about American citizens... until they find a reason to use that kind of information.
You see, support for the war on terror has been quickly disappearing for the past many years, and, with it, the careers of aspiring politicians. So the government found a politically-useful criminal: the pedophile, a scumbag we all love to hate.
And what do you think the bureaucrats dreamt up in order to take down these unwanted animals? Maybe a creative educational movement aimed at teaching parents how to protect their kids? Nope, there's no "thinking outside of the box" for politicians -- they figured they'd just stick with the video game trend.
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled the new plan a little more than one week ago, and he's calling it "Operation: Game Over," terminating 3,580 gaming accounts with the help of a New York state law passed in 2008 that requires sex offenders to register email addresses and screen names with the government. But despite the operation sounding like a vigilante's cheesy tagline -- picture Timothy Olyphant in Justified -- most studies agree that these well-meaning initiatives really don't protect children all too well.
Who cares, though? There's no need to obtain real results if you get a catchy campaign slogan out of everything: "Pedophiles tried to attack your kids online. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had one thing to say: 'Game over.'"
I can't even picture what they'll come up with next -- though, knowing how political minds work, it will undoubtedly involve video games for the time. If I had to take a guess, they'll be snooping on gamers who frequent Lollipop Chainsaw events (e.g., man-baby serial killers who purchase Blow Pops in excess and Jessica Nigri).
And so we end with another story of government obsessions with easy-fix deals and a complete misunderstanding of how the internet works. At least it's fun to watch.