The first know-all

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Politics

1 Which Labour MP was stripped of his Oldham East and Saddleworth seat by an election court for making false statements about his Lib Dem opponent?
a Bob Ainsworth
b Elliot Morley
c Phil Woolas
d Liam Byrne

2 The Foreign Office issued a public apology after an official memo suggested Britain should mark the Pope's visit by launching a Benedict-branded range of which items?
a Condoms
b Chocolates
c Beer mugs
d Crucifixes

3 Saying she wanted to get rid of "skeletons" from her past before standing as a Labour councillor in Pimlico, Sally Bercow admitted she was which of the following in her twenties?
a "a bit of a goer"
b "slightly bisexual"
c "a fan of the marijuana"
d "a binge drinker"

4 Which Labour MP was secretly filmed likening himself to a “cab for hire" when lobbying former cabinet colleagues on behalf of business?
a Geoff Hoon
b Stephen Byers
c Jack McConnell
d Charles Clarke

5 Complete Labour MP Austin Mitchell's quote about the coalition government: "It's like marrying the Parachute Regiment with a Brownie pack -"
a "a disaster waiting to happen"
b "so mad it might just work"
c "bound to be messy"
d "wait, what's a Brownie pack?"

6 Ed Miliband beat his brother, David, by how many percentage points to become Labour leader?
a 0.8
b 1.3
c 2.6
d 3.1

7 David Laws resigned as Chief Secretary to the Treasury after spending how many days in the post?
a 11
b 17
c 24
d 29

8 Called "a bigoted woman" by Gordon Brown, Gillian Duffy was a lifelong supporter of which party?
a Liberal Democrats
b Conservatives
c Labour
d BNP

9 How did Ed Miliband describe his nickname "Red Ed" in a BBC interview in September?
a "tiresome rubbish"
b "banal and boring"
c "at least it rhymes"
d "makes me sound too angry"

10 George Osborne was reminded of an article he wrote for the Times in 2006 extolling which nation as "a shining example of the art of the possible in long-term economic policymaking"?
a Iceland
b China
c Ireland
d Greece

International affairs

1 What did Naomi Campbell call "a big inconvenience for me"?
a Turning 40 in May
b Organising "Fashion for Relief Haiti"
c Testifying at the Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal
d Dealing with allegations about slapping her chauffeur

2 Which foreign ruler was revealed as owning more of London than the Queen?
a Sultan of Brunei
b Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai
c King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
d Emir of Qatar

3 Who ousted Bill Gates as the world's richest man in the 2010 Forbes Rich List?
a Lakshmi Mittal
b Lawrence Ellison
c Carlos Slim Helú
d Warren Buffett

4 Which senatorial hopeful for Delaware broadcast a campaign advert that told voters she wasn't a witch?
a Carly Fiorina
b Christine O'Donnell
c Sharron Angle
d Lisa Murkowski

5 In his memoir Decision Points, what did George W Bush claim was his worst moment in his eight years as US president?
a Seeing the first photos of US servicemen's coffins return from Iraq
b Realising how premature his "mission accomplished" speech was
c Hearing of the 9/11 attacks while in a school classroom
d Kanye West saying: "George Bush doesn't care about black people"

6 In October, the Chilean miners were rescued after how many days trapped underground?
a 44
b 53
c 69
d 82

7 The American comedian Jon Stewart held a "Rally to Restore" what?
a Sanity
b Peace
c Liberal Anger
d Dignity

8 During a February Q&A with activists, what did the notes on Sarah Palin's hand say?
a "energy, budget cuts, lift American spirits"
b "drill, baby, drill and drill again"
c "Blame Obama, Blame Obama, Blame Obama"
d "Tea Party good, Washington bad"

9 Who built a bacterial genome that constituted the creation of synthetic life for the first time?
a Craig Venter
b Sidney Altman
c Joseph G Gall
d George Schaller

10 In July, which country's lower house passed a bill, by 335 votes to one, banning Muslim women from wearing the full veil in public?
a Netherlands
b France
c Italy
d Sweden

Home affairs

1 Which celebrity chef sacked his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson, from his job as chief executive of his restaurant empire?
a Jamie Oliver
b Marco Pierre White
c Gordon Ramsay
d Heston Blumenthal

2 Who or what are believed to be involved in 74,000 UK road accidents every year?
a Wild deer
b Cyclists
c Potholes
d Drivers using mobiles

3 In April, the science writer Simon Singh won the right to rely on the defence of fair comment in a libel case brought by which body?
a British Osteopathic Association
b British Homeopathic Association
c British Naturopathic Association
d British Chiropractic Association

4 Which university has accredited a foundation degree with fast-food giant McDonald's?
a London South Bank
b Liverpool John Moores
c Manchester Metropolitan
d Nottingham Trent

5 What was the name of the cat that Mary Bale was filmed dropping in a wheelie bin?
a Lola
b Mina
c Charly
d Holly

Online

1 What did the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg say was the only thing that the makers of The Social Network got right about his portrayal in the film?
a His student wardrobe
b His good looks
c His business acumen
d His friendship skills

2 Claiming he did it in jest, Paul Chambers was convicted of sending menacing electronic communication after tweeting: "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!" Which airport?

a Robin Hood, Doncaster
b Birmingham
c Stansted
d Luton

3 The Minneapolis IT workers Pete and Alisha Arnold set up a website inviting the public to vote on what?
a Whether they should have an open relationship
b Whether they should convert to Islam
c Whether they should emigrate to Canada
d Whether Alisha should have an abortion

4 Which country did voters in a poll suggest teenage pop star Justin Bieber should tour next?
a Iraq
b North Korea
c Afghanistan
d Somalia

5 Threatening to leave Twitter yet again, who tweeted: "So some f**king paper misquotes a humorous interview I gave, which itself misquoted and now I'm the Antichrist. I give up", adding later, "Bye bye"?
a Ashton Kutcher
b Jonathan Ross
c Stephen Fry
d Jimmy Carr

Arts

1 What was the British Museum's 100th and final exhibit in the BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 Objects?
a A credit card
b A stone-chopping tool from Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge
c The Rosetta Stone
d A solar-powered lamp and charger

2 Which band took "strong insult" at the US Air Force Reserve using a re-recording of their song "Fell in Love with a Girl" in a Super Bowl ad
because it encouraged recruitment for a war "we do not support"?
a Kings of Leon
b My Chemical Romance
c The White Stripes
d The Strokes

3 In February, a bronze sculpture by which artist became the most expensive piece of art to sell at auction after it was bought for more than £65m?
a Alberto Giacometti
b David Smith
c Henry Moore
d Constantin Brancusi

4 Two previously unknown violin sonatas by which Italian composer were uncovered after 270 years?
a Antonio Vivaldi
b Giuseppe Tartini
c Niccolò Paganini
d Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

5 Lady Gaga wore a dress made out of which material to the MTV Video Music Awards in September?
a Bubblewrap
b Glass
c Gold leaf
d Raw meat

Television

1 The X Factor contestant Gamu Nhengu claimed that she feared being killed by firing squad if she was deported back to which country?
a Sudan
b Zimbabwe
c Angola
d Rwanda

2 Alan Sugar engaged in a Twitter war with which woman, calling her the worst Celebrity Apprentice contestant and saying "she really needs to think about a diet"?
a Clare Balding
b Ruby Wax
c Jo Brand
d Kirstie Allsopp

3 In May, Channel 4 drew 350 complaints after showing the UK's first television advert for what?
a An Islamic charity
b Scientology
c Advice on abortion services
d Penis enlargement

4 Which TV news presenter mistook the Ash Wednesday cross on the forehead of the Catholic US vice-president, Joe Biden, for a bruise?
a Kay Burley
b Julie Etchingham
c Natasha Kaplinsky
d Anna Botting

5 Which selection of nine letters resulted in a rude word, and a round of Countdown being cut from the show?
a SFCKUFCAE
b DTCEIASHF
c CKDIHEDAS
d HLESOASER

Media

1 In April, which newspaper published the front-page headline "Clegg in Nazi slur on Britain"?
a Daily Mail
b Sun
c Daily Express
d Daily Star

2 Zac Goldsmith called which man a "charlatan" after an angry television clash concerning his election spending?
a Jon Snow
b Jeremy Paxman
c Andrew Neil
d Nick Robinson

3 What amount of money did Sarah Ferguson tell an undercover reporter from the News of the World could "open doors" and gain access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew?
a £50,000
b £100,000
c £250,000
d £500,000

4 President Obama sacked his top commander in Afghanistan - General Stanley McChrystal - after a candid interview criticising the US administration was published in which magazine?
a Rolling Stone
b Vanity Fair
c New Yorker
d Harper's Magazine

5 Talking about celebrities launching lawsuits against the News of the World, the lawyer Mark Lewis said: "Getting a letter from Scotland Yard that your phone has been hacked is rather like . . ."?
a "the taxman notifying you of a huge rebate"
b "finding out a relative has left you thousands in their will"
c "receiving winning Lotto numbers in the post"
d "getting a Willy Wonka golden ticket"

Books

1 What ransom was demanded for Jonathan Franzen's glasses after they were stolen at the Serpentine Gallery launch of his novel Freedom?
a £1
b £100
c £10,000
d £100,000

2 Which writer founded the Democratic Front for People's Federation party to fight corruption in his native Nigeria?
a Chinua Achebe
b Wole Soyinka
c Ben Okri
d Ken Wiwa

3 Which novelist compared becoming a grandfather to "getting a telegram from the mortuary"?
a Ian McEwan
b Martin Amis
c Philip Pullman
d William Boyd

4 Which of these novelists was the first to pass away this year?
a Beryl Bainbridge
b José Saramago
c Dick Francis
d J D Salinger

5 Who accidentally coined the neologism "refudiate" - the New Oxford American Dictionary's "Word of the Year"?
a Sarah Palin
b Barack Obama
c Rush Limbaugh
d John Boehner

Sport

1 What was the score in the fifth set of the first-round Wimbledon singles match played by the American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut?
a 48-46
b 55-53
c 62-60
d 70-68

2 David Cameron described which sports TV commentator's work as "just epic"?
a Sid Waddell
b John Motson
c Murray Walker
d Richie Benaud

3 Which World Cup result-predicting "psychic" octopus passed away on 26 October?
a John
b Paul
c George
d Peter

4 Which Australian bowler took a hat trick on the first day of the 2010 Ashes series?
a Shane Watson
b Peter Siddle
c Mitchell Johnson
d Ben Hilfenhaus

5 The skeleton bob champion Amy Williams won Britain its first Winter Olympic individual gold since which year?
a 1972
b 1980
c 1992
d 2002

Quotes

1 Silvio Berlusconi said: “It is better to be passionate about beautiful girls than" what?
a "be gay"
b "be a thief"
c "anything else
in the world"
d "climate change"

2 What did Elaine Paige say of her fellow singer Susan Boyle's phenomenal success?
a "A lovely breath of
fresh air"
b "She's my new heroine"
c "A virus that swept
the world"
d "Unbelievable in every sense of the word"

3 What did the US vice-president, Joe Biden, say was "a big fucking deal"?
a Being the US
vice-president
b Passing of health-care reform
c The loss of the House
of Representatives
d Reaction to his "say something nice" gaffe

4 Who said: "I'm delighted with my new role as the Lipton Ice Tea ambassador . . . its values match those that are important in my life"?
a Nicole Kidman
b Daniel Craig
c Keira Knightley
d Hugh Jackman

5 The former BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was "likely to be" what?
a "rather messy"
b "negligible"
c "very, very modest"
d "worse than you can possibly imagine"

This article first appeared in the 20 December 2010 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Special

NEAL FOX FOR NEW STATESMAN
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They know where you live

Imagine your house being raided by armed police. That’s what happened to Mumsnet’s Justine Roberts after she fell victim to an internet hoaxer.

At around midnight on Tuesday 11 August 2015, a man dialled 999 to report a murder. A woman had been killed in her London home, he said, before hanging up without offering his name. A second call followed. This time, the man claimed to be the killer. He told the operator that he had now taken the woman’s children hostage at the Islington address. They were locked with him inside a room in the house, he said. The police responded with reassuring speed. Fifteen minutes later, eight officers, five of them armed with automatic weapons, accompanied by saliva-flecked dogs, arrived at the scene and took up position in neighbouring front gardens. When one officer banged on the front door of the house, the team was greeted, moments later, not by a masked murderer but by a blinking and bewildered au pair.

Justine Roberts, the woman whom the caller claimed to have killed, was in fact nearly 2,000 kilometres away – in Italy, holidaying with her husband and children. After explaining this to the police, the au pair called Roberts, who assumed that the incident was an unfortunate misunderstanding, one that could be unpicked after the vacation. It was no mistake. Roberts had been the victim of “swatting”, the term given to a false emergency call designed to bait an armed unit of police officers to storm someone’s home. It wasn’t until a few days later, as the family was preparing to return to London, that Roberts discovered that she had been the target of a planned and sustained attack, not only on her household, but also on her business.

Roberts is the founder of Mumsnet, the popular British internet discussion forum on which parents share advice and information. A few days before the swatting incident, members of 8chan, a chat room that prides itself on being an open, anonymous platform for free speech, no matter how distasteful, had registered accounts on Mums­net with the aim of trolling people there. When legitimate Mumsnet users identified and then ridiculed the trolls, some retreated to 8chan to plot more serious vengeance in a thread that the police later discovered. Roberts wasn’t involved in the online skirmish but, as the public face of the site, she was chosen as the first target.

After the initial armed response, Roberts’s perception was that the police were unconcerned about the swatting attack. “We were told that there was no victim, so there was not much that could be done,” she told me. The hoax caller, however, was not finished. In the days after the incident, there was chatter on Mumsnet and Twitter about what had happened. A Mumsnet user whom I will call Jo Scott – she requested anonymity for her own safety – exchanged heated messages with a hacker who claimed responsibility for the 999 call.

“It descended into jokes and silliness, like many things do,” Scott said. “I didn’t take it seriously when the hacker said he had big surprises in store.” She doesn’t believe that what happened next was personal. “I think I was just easy to find.”

A few days after police were called to Roberts’s home, Scott was in her bedroom while her husband was sitting downstairs playing video games. At 11pm, she heard a noise outside. “I looked out of the window and saw blue flashing lights in the street,” she recalled. “I could hear shouting but I didn’t pay it much notice.” Then she heard her husband open the front door. Police rushed into the house. An armed officer shouted upstairs, asking Scott if she was hurt. When she replied that she was fine, he told her to fetch her two young children: he needed to see them. Scott shook her sons awake, explaining, so as not to alarm them, that the police had come to show the boys their cars. As the three of them went downstairs, the officers swept up through the house, repeatedly asking if there were any weapons on the property.

“I was beyond confused by this point,” Scott said. “Everyone was carrying a gun. They had little cutaway bits so you could see the bullets. My eldest asked one of the officers if he could have a go on his gun and went to touch it.”

As Scott sat with an officer downstairs, she asked what had happened to her husband. “I later found out that the noises I’d heard were the police calling for him to come outside,” she said. “He dropped the PlayStation controller as he left the room. It was only later that we realised it’s a good job he did: in the dark, the controller might have looked like a weapon.”

Outside, Scott’s husband had been surrounded and arrested. Other police ­officers were on the lookout in the front gardens of nearby properties, having warned the couple’s neighbours to stay indoors, away from their windows. “One of the officers said it was beginning to look like a hoax,” Scott said. “Then he mentioned swatting. As soon as he said that word, I twigged that I’d seen the term that day on Twitter in relation to the Mumsnet hack.”

***

The term “swatting” has been used by the FBI since 2008. “Swat” is an acronym of “Special Weapons and Tactics”, the American police squads routinely called to intervene in hostage situations. It is, in a sense, a weaponised version of a phoney order of pizza, delivered as a prank to a friend’s home, albeit one that carries the possibility of grave injury at the hands of police. For perpetrators, the appeal is the ease with which the hoax can be set in motion and the severity of the results. With a single, possibly untraceable phone call, dialled from anywhere in the world, it is possible to send an armed unit to any address, be it the home of a high-profile actor whom you want to prank or that of someone you want to scare.

In America, where swatting originated, the practice has become so widespread – targets have included Tom Cruise, Taylor Swift, Clint Eastwood and the Californian congressman Ted Lieu – that it is now classed as an act of domestic terrorism. In the UK, where Justine Roberts’s was one of the first recorded cases, swatting is classed as harassment, though that may change if these and other forms of internet vigilante attacks, such as doxxing, become increasingly commonplace.

Doxxing involves the publication of someone’s personal details – usually their home address, phone numbers, bank details and, in some cases, email address – on the internet. It is often the prelude to swatting: after all, the perpetrator of a hoax cannot direct the police to the target’s home address until this is known. (During the week of the Mumsnet attacks, one of the perpetrators attempted to locate another target using their computer’s IP address, which can identify where a person is connected to the internet, often with alarming precision. Their calculation, however, was slightly out; police were called to a neighbour’s address.)

Though doxxing has a less dramatic outcome than swatting, the psychological effects can be just as severe. For victims – usually people who are active on the internet and who have outspoken opinions or who, in the eyes of an internet mob, have committed some kind of transgression – the mere threat of having their personal information made available on the web can cause lasting trauma. A Canadian software developer whose home address, bank details, social security number and email history were published online in 2014 told me that he now keeps an axe by his front door. “I still don’t feel safe here,” he said. “It’s terrifying.”

Christos Reid, a social media manager for a software company, was doxxed last year. Reid’s information came from a website he had registered seven years earlier. “I woke up one morning to find a tweet announcing my personal details,” he told me. When he asked the Twitter account holder to take down the address, he was told to commit suicide. Reid said he was “OK for about half an hour”; but then, after he went out, he broke down in the street. “I’ve become more paranoid,” he said. He no longer gives out business cards with personal information.

Reid lives in London, but at the time of the doxx he was attending an event in Nottingham, home to the British police’s largest cybercrime division. He was impressed with the police response, even though they told him that they had not heard of the term “doxxing” before. “I was interviewed by two separate people about my experiences who then compiled everything into a case file and transferred it to the Met. When I arrived home, an officer visited me to discuss what happened and my options.”

The policeman explained harassment law to Reid, and offered advice on how to improve security at his flat and what to do if someone hostile turned up at the address. Reid shouldered the repercussions of what had happened alone; no suspects were identified. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police similarly said that although detectives from Islington CID have investigated the swatting attacks made on Roberts and Scott, no suspects have been identified “at this time”, even as “inquiries continue”.

Doxxing may seem to be a mild form of harassment but it carries with it an implicit threat of impending violence; the worrying message is: “We know where you live.” Unlike swatting, which is always malicious, doxxing is sometimes viewed by its perpetrators as virtuous. In November 2014, hackers claiming to be aligned with the internet group Anonymous published personal information allegedly belonging to a Ku Klux Klan member from Missouri. The hackers said that their action was a response to the KKK’s threat to use lethal force against demonstrators in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, protesting against the killing of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer. In January 2015 hackers claiming to be from Isis took over US Central Command’s Twitter account and posted information about senior military officers, including phone numbers and email addresses. In each case, those carrying out the doxxing believed, however mistakenly, in the virtue of their actions and hoped that the information could be used to bring punishment or ruin to the subject.

The term “doxxing” may be new but the practice is an old one. The Hollywood blacklist revealed the political beliefs and associations of actors and directors in the late 1940s as a way to invite shame, deny employment and dissuade others from following their example. “But it has become a lot easier to find people’s private details with the help of the internet,” Jeroen Vader told me. Vader owns Pastebin, a website that allows users to upload and distribute text documents, and where much of the personal data is anonymously uploaded and shared. “People post their private information on social networks,” he said. “A lot of people aren’t aware that their information is so easily available to others.”

In Justine Roberts’s case, the perpetrator may not even have needed to look at social networks to mine her personal information. “If you’re on the electoral roll, you’re easy to find,” she said. “There’s not much you can do to stop people getting hold of your data one way or another, whether it’s for nefarious reasons or simply to better advertise to you. We live in a world that is constantly trying to gather more information about us.”

Jeroen Vader said he has noticed an “upward trend” in the number of doxxing posts uploaded to Pastebin in recent months, but insisted that when someone uses the site’s abuse report system these offending posts are removed immediately.

Across social media companies, action is more often reactive than proactive. Victoria Taylor, a former director at Reddit, one of the largest community-driven websites in the world, said that the rule against publishing other users’ personal information has been “consistently one of the site’s most basic policies” and that “any violation of this rule is taken extremely seriously by the team and community”. Still, she was only able to recommend that victims of doxxing send a message to the site’s administrators. Similarly, when asked what a person can do to remove personal details that have been published without permission, a Twitter spokesperson said: “Use our help form.”

The spokesperson added: “There has def­initely been an overall increase in doxxing since 2006, both on Twitter and on the internet more generally.” She attributed this rise to the emergence of search engines such as Intelius and Spokeo, services designed to locate personal information.

***

The surge in the number of dox­xing and swatting attacks is in part a result of the current lack of legal protection for victims. Confusion regarding the law on doxxing is pervasive; the term is even not mentioned in either US or European law. In a tutorial posted on Facebook in 2013, the writer claims: “Doxxing isn’t illegal as all the information you have obtained is public,” and adds: “But posting of the doxx might get you in a little trouble.”

Phil Lee, a partner in the privacy, security and information department of Fieldfisher based at the law firm’s office in Silicon Valley, said that differing privacy laws around the world were part of the problem. “Various countries have laws that cover illegal or unauthorised obtaining of data. Likewise, some of the consequences of releasing that data, such as defamation or stalking, cover elements of what we now term doxxing. But there is no global law covering what is a global phenomenon.” Indeed, Roberts believes that her London address was targeted from America – the 999 call was routed through a US proxy number.

One challenge to creating a law on doxxing is that the sharing of personal information without permission has already become so widespread in the digital age. “If a law was to state something like, ‘You must not post personal information about another person online without their consent,’ it wouldn’t reflect how people use the internet,” Lee said. “People post information about what their friends and family members have been doing all the time without their consent.

“Such a law could have a potentially detrimental effect on freedom of speech.”

Lee believes that a specific law is unnecessary, because its potentially harmful effects are already covered by three discrete pieces of legislation dealing with instances where a person’s private information is obtained illegally, when that information is used to carry out illegal acts and when the publication of the information is accompanied by a threat to incite hatred. However, this does not adequately account for cases in which the information is obtained legally, and then used to harass the individual in a more legally ambiguous manner, either with prank phone calls or with uninvited orders of pizza.

Susan Basko, an independent lawyer who practises in California and who has been doxxed in the course of her frequent clashes with internet trolls, believes that the onus should be on the law, rather than the public. She points out that in the US it is a crime to publicise information about a government employee such as their home address, their home and cellphone numbers, or their social security number, even if the information is already online. “This law should apply to protect all people, not just federal employees,” she said. “And websites, website-hosting companies and other ISPs should be required to uphold this law.”

Basko said that doxxing will continue to increase while police have inadequate resources to follow up cases. For now, it is up to individuals to take preventative measures. Zoë Quinn, an American game designer and public speaker who was doxxed in 2014, has launched Crash Override, a support network and assistance group for targets of online harassment, “composed entirely of experienced survivors”.

Quinn, who spoke about the problem at a congressional hearing in Washington, DC in April last year, recently posted a guide on how to reduce the likelihood of being doxxed. “If you are worried you might some day be targeted,” she wrote, “consider taking an evening to stalk yourself online, deleting and opting out of anything you’re not comfortable with.”

Both Scott and Roberts have changed their privacy habits following the attacks. Scott is more careful about interacting with strangers online, while Roberts uses scrambler software, which ensures that she never uses the same password for more than one online site or service.

For both women’s families, the effects of their encounters with armed police have also lingered. When one day recently Roberts’s husband returned home early from work, the au pair called the police, believing it was an intruder. And Scott is haunted by what happened.

“What if my husband had made a sudden move or resisted in some way? What if my eldest had grabbed the gun instead of gently reaching for it? What if people locally believed that my husband did actually have guns in the house?” she asks. “I don’t think the people making these sorts of hoax calls realise the impact.” 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism