AOL Instant Messager R.I.P.

Before there was Twitter or WhatsApp there was AOL IM. Now it is being shuttered. When people wail about the dominance of Google and Facebook remember AOL, “You got mail” and they merged with Time Warner in a deal that capped the internet’s first boom. It was going to dominate the world once. Now it is a sad old legacy brand and we are waving goodbye to the yellow man…

Corbyn Can’t Say If He’s Used Uber

Increasingly farcical Marr interview in which Corbyn refuses to answer any questions…

#SaveUber London Petition Launched

BREAKING: Uber Licence Revoked

Extraordinary decision. 3.5 million Londoners and 40,000 drivers use Uber, Sadiq is now going to have to explain to them why they are out of a job and out of pocket. Khan pays back the taxi unions who put him in City Hall…

The Tories say:

“This is a hugely damaging decision by Sadiq Khan that will effectively put 40,000 people out of work at the click of a finger. The Mayor consistently tells us London is open but in shutting down the operations of an innovative market leader like Uber he has caused immense reputational damage to our city as a global business hub.”

How is Khan going to explain this?

UPDATE: Guido understands TfL informed Uber of their decision 1 minute before they tweeted it. Remarkable behaviour.

UPDATE II: Uber will challenge the decision in the courts. Their statement:

“3.5 million Londoners who use our app, and more than 40,000 licensed drivers who rely on Uber to make a living, will be astounded by this decision. By wanting to ban our app from the capital Transport for London and the Mayor have caved in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice. If this decision stands, it will put more than 40,000 licensed drivers out of work and deprive Londoners of a convenient and affordable form of transport. To defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app, we intend to immediately challenge this in the courts… This ban would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies who bring choice to consumers.”

UPDATE III: Khan points out it was TfL’s decision but he backs it:

“All companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – particularly when it comes to the safety of customers. Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security. I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security. Any operator of private hire services in London needs to play by the rules.”

Online Extremism Report Too Extreme

The Policy Exchange report on online extremism released this morning is getting a huge amount of pick-up. It concludes:

“The government should consider stronger action to try and limit the demand side of the extremism equation. One potential vehicle for this would be the creation of new legislative offences against the aggravated possession and persistent consumption of extremist material.”

A call for more regulation and a new quango with a helping of censorship on top. Ostensibly, the report focuses on online content that incites terror. The polling, however, canvassed public support for the removal of many different kinds of content. What exactly would the removal of “extreme politics” content involve? Likewise, pornography? Where is the line drawn and by whom?

Ironically, the report confirms that the public think extremist preachers in places of worship are actually a bigger problem than online extremist content:

Nothing proposed by Policy Exchange will stop determined terrorists communicating. Even if terrorist propaganda is driven off mainstream platforms it will still be found on elsewhere on the internet. That is the inherent nature of the internet, unless you want to go down the Chinese commanded and controlled internet path.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission is suggesting ‘banning internet trolls from voting’ for making negative comments online. That’s right, the voting regulator is seriously proposing disenfranchising citizens as a punitive measure designed to police their behaviour. This is near totalitarian hysteria…

SMR Mini-Nuclear Plants Could Produce Cheap Energy

This morning Policy Exchange hosted an event about small modular reactors (SMRs) – the technology is derived from nuclear-powered submarine systems. A consortium led by Rolls Royce is pushing the idea of using new nuclear technology scaled down to a fraction of the size of older plant designs. The mini-plants would be made in factories to be re-assembled on site much more quickly and cheaply than large-scale projects like HinkleyRolls-Royce reckons the global export market could be worth as much as £400 billion for the made-in-Britain technology.

The report claims that the mini-plants would produce power at £60/MWh, which is far more competitive than the £92/MWh strike price guaranteed to Hinkley by George Osborne. It is clear that as old power stations are decommissioned Britain is going to need to replace them – wind is too intermittent to make up for the loss of capacity – nuclear is going to have to be part of the energy supply mix. Hinkley type technology is just too expensive.

Download the report Small Modular Reactors.

McStrike Breaker

This is what £10 per hour burger flippers will result in…

MP Demands Ban on Anonymous Twitter Accounts

Last night’s Westminster Hall debate on abuse and intimidation during the election saw MPs tell horror stories from the campaign. The majority aired legitimate concerns about having to deal with angry nutters. Others however sought to exploit the debate to push for draconian changes to the law. The new Labour MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield asked if “now is the time to ban anonymous social media accounts”. Last week SNP MEP Alyn Smith called for “a ban on the kind of anonymous accounts which seem to enable people to be so unpleasant”.

This idea is obviously preposterous as it would bring an end to the much-lowed anonymous crowd-sourced account EyeSpyMP, or Photoshop wizard General Boles. More importantly, the removal of anonymity exposes politically engaged social media users operating under hostile regimes to serious dangers. The @Raqqa_SL account saw a team of 17 anonymous Syrian activists expose life under ISIS. Do Whitfield and Smith think their identities should have been revealed? Almost as if these idiots haven’t thought their dense idea through. 

MPs discussed a potential review of their legal protections, particularly with regard to online hate. Online conduct laws are already extensive, and the police have said for some years that the majority of their calls are already to do with online incidents. The substantial body of electoral law in the UK arguably affords more protection to candidates from false claims, abuse and intimidation than is enjoyed by ordinary citizens. Serious offenders end up in prison. The necessary protections already exist, especially so for MPs…

Anonymous accounts operated by insiders are key sources for journalists and are used by whistleblowers. Anonymity and free speech have long been intimately linked in the tradition of liberty: from Cato’s Letters in Britain to The Federalist Papers in the US, pseudonymous communication has underpinned free expression. Today, anonymous social media accounts are used by political activists to undermine repressive regimes throughout the world. Freedom from abuse, not abuse of freedom…

The Lady Vanishes: May Removed From Tory Website Splash

The PM used to take pride of place on the Conservatives.com website splash:

There she was during the election:

And on election day:

Today, she is nowhere to be seen:

The lady vanishes… (© Labour’s Toby Perkins)

Osborne Defends BlackRock’s £500 Million Investment on Standard Front Page

George Osborne has defended his employer BlackRock’s half-a-billion pound investment on the front page of the Evening Standard. In the most glaring conflict of interest since his editorship began, today’s Standard blasts Rebecca Long-Bailey as “out of touch” for criticising Uber, and favourably quotes her own colleagues who support the taxi app. BlackRock, which invested in Uber in 2014, has a stake now worth some £500 million. BlackRock pays Osborne a salary of £600,000 for 48 days work per year.

BlackRock keeps Osborne on retainer and it is in BlackRock’s direct financial interests to see Uber defended, Osborne will no doubt argue that he defends Uber on the Evening Standard front page for liberal reasons. Guido did warn him that as editor he would have to navigate a minefield of conflicted interests when he took the job. This was inevitable…

UPDATE: The first edition of the Standard had no mention of Uber on the front page. Second edition splashed it. Did someone pick up the phone to the editor? 

Freedom-Hating Socialism is Back: Using Uber “Not Morally Acceptable”

This morning Guido was driven in an Uber by a student who liked the work because he could log on whenever he had spare time and whenever he liked. Choice, convenient for buyer and seller. Corbyn’s authoritarian Labour would run them off the road…

Corbynistas Trying to Use Data Protection Laws to Reinstate Suspended Members

Mandatory re-selection and a purge at HQ are just the beginning of the Corbynista consolidation plan. The next step is to reinstate those nutty members suspended for various offences last year. Hundreds of Corbyn supporters were censured by the party’s Compliance Unit for tweets and Facebook statuses that breached Labour rules, either on grounds of anti-Semitism or supporting another political party.

Now Corbynistas are launching legal challenges to prevent the Compliance Unit from using evidence gleaned from their social media accounts. They have complained to the Information Commissioner, claiming it is a breach of the Data Protection Act for screengrabs from their Facebook and Twitter accounts to be used against them. Corbynistas have been writing to General Secretary Iain McNicol stating they do not consent to their “private” data being used by Labour HQ. At least one suspended member claims to have had their complaint upheld.

This is bonkers. In the vast majority of cases the social media posts are publicly available broadcasts from foolish members. Would be laughable if Labour reinstates these anti-Semites and Trotskyist entryists on a technicality… 

DCMS Rebranded, Sort Of

DCMS is changing its name to DDCMS, except it will still be called DCMS. Confused? The government explains:

“In a move that acknowledges the way the Department’s remit has evolved, the Prime Minister and Culture Secretary Karen Bradley have agreed a departmental name change. The Department will continue to be referred to as DCMS in all communications, but is now the department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.”

Saves paying to have everything in the department rebranded. Though they’ll need to redo that logo, it’s missing a comma…

Data.Gov.UK Exposes Users’ Names & Passwords in Massive Data Breach


Yesterday the Cabinet Office emailed asking users to reset their passwords for data.gov.uk, as somehow there’s been a leak of user names, emails and (hashed) passwords. The Cabinet Office is responsible for the government’s “digital first” information technology strategy. Oops…

A year ago the US government first revealed that hackers had stolen personnel files of some 21 million current and former federal government employees. The massive data breach – blamed on Chinese hackers – covered everyone who had undergone background checks for federal employment. Everything, from Social Security numbers to birth dates, even fingerprint records, was accessed. What has happened here?

Illegal Lions Rugby Streams Published on Labour MP’s Website

A Labour MP has published multiple illegal streams of the Lions rugby tour on his website. On 10 June, Mike Kane’s website published a stream of the British and Irish Lions versus Crusaders match, which was aired on Sky Sports. Kane’s site also returns Google results for illegal streams of other Lions tour matches over the last few weeks. The rights for the tour are owned by Sky. Publishing non-subscription streams online is against the law…

Seems to Guido that Kane surely cannot have done this himself. Was it an enthusiastic staffer? Or was he hacked? We’ve tried to contact Kane all morning but no one answered the phone at his office. Perhaps they were watching this morning’s big game…

May an Analogue Prime Minister in a Digital Age

In the May v May interview in City AM this morning, Theresa May’s answers to Christian May’s quickfire round were revealing:

Hayek or Keynes? “I have one theory which is you have to live within your means.”

Well that is hardly true, is it. May’s manifesto pushed back the never-ending deficit reduction horizon to 2025. 

Black cabs or Uber? “Black cabs are a great institution.”

Safety first as ever from the PM. Oh for the the days of Digital Dave’s backing for forward-thinking, freedom and innovation. 

Coq D’Argent or Simpson’s Tavern? Simpson’s Tavern.” When I point out this is Nigel Farage’s favourite City haunt, the PM changes her mind.

Says it all…

Gary Lineker’s Walkers Selfie Stunt Backfires Spectacularly

Walkers Crisps have launched a marketing stunt asking users to send in selfies on Twitter, which are then being superimposed into a video with Gary Lineker and automatically tweeted from the Walkers account. What could possibly go wrong?

Tough day in the Walkers social media department.

Lovelorn Guardianistas Hit by Data Leak

Lovelorn Guardianistas are being bombarded with sexually explicit spam after their email addresses were exposed on the paper’s Soulmates dating site. Creepily, details from specific user’s profiles have been included alongside generic smut in the spam, causing subscribers to spill their almond lattes in fear. GNM has confirmed at least 17 users have been in touch to report the leak. One said:

“I basically had been receiving spam… directly referencing information that could only have come from the Soulmates database… It’s all information that I was happy to put online at one point anyway, but when it’s used outside of context like that it does feel a lot more creepy.”

The leak was first reported to The Guardian by an IT worker last November. They only replied confirming the leak last month, six months after being told. The newspaper reports heavily on data leaks by firms and in the public sector. It reported its own leak only after the story was broken by the BBC…

Cabbies Blockade Westminster, Forget It’s Recess

Black cab drivers are blockading Westminster this afternoon in their latest anti-Uber protest, organised by United Cabbies Group and supported by the LTDA and RMT. Just one problem. It’s recess and there aren’t any MPs in town…

Placards include charming sentiments such as “Cameron Osborne you will hang for this“.

Not like the cabbies to lose all sense of perspective… 

Siôn Simon’s Tech Jobs Hypocrisy

Point 2 of Siôn Simon’s 10 point plan for the Midlands is to rebuild “the West Midlands as Britain’s capital of technology”. A noble aim. As he says

“The collective geniuses of the West Midlands are game-changers – global and historic leaders.

[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Matt Zarb-Cousin cracks a good ideological joke…

“Conservatives don’t like a ‘robot tax’ because it means they’d have a tax on their own leader – the Maybot.”

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