Cable Enjoys Summer Bash After Plugging Huawei

Vince Cable has long been a staunch advocate of greater Huawei involvement in the UK. From stepping down as Business Secretary in 2015 right up to this year he’s been busy penning op-eds talking them up and defending them in interviews. He even launched a public attack on Theresa May in 2016 over the fact that she demanded more stringent security vetting for Huawei when they were in Government together…

Luckily for Vince all that loyalty hasn’t gone unrewarded, he was happily enjoying Huawei’s hospitality at their Summer Reception in Banqueting House on Whitehall last night. Also on the guestlist were Shadow Business Minister Chi Onwurah and Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, the SNP’s Lisa Cameron and Tory peers Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Michael Bates and David Willetts who gave a speech opposing a blanket ban on Huawei 5G technology. Whether or not they’re allowed to help connect the UK’s 5G network, they’re certainly good at making connections in Parliament…

Is it too cynical of Guido to wonder if old twinkle toes is not thinking about his retirement and that perhaps a few non-executive directorships for the former Business Secretary would be in order. Given Vince’s SpAd at BEIS was Ashley Lumsden, who just so happens to now be head of Government Relations for Huawei, this is more likely than you might think. At least that way he’ll get paid for the service he is now giving Huawei for free…

Clegg: ‘Absolutely No Evidence’ Russia Influenced Brexit

Carole Cadwalladr and David Lammy have been spluttering furiously into their cornflakes all morning after Nick Clegg told the Today Programme that there was “absolutely no evidence” that Russia or Cambridge Analytica influenced Brexit. Clegg said “we have a duty to explain fact from some of the allegations that have been made”. Clearly not a duty that Carole has ever felt bound by herself

“Much though I understand why people want to reduce that eruption in British politics to some kind of plot or conspiracy, some use of new social media through opaque means, I’m afraid the roots to British euroscepticism go very, very deep…”

Never mind the fact that the official report from the Information Commissioner’s Office already crushed all of Carole’s grand conspiracies about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Brexit, raising questions about her pet whistleblower Chris Wylie instead. Clegg hasn’t triggered anyone this badly since tuition fees…

If she wants to start addressing disinformation on social media she could start with her own Observer ‘scoop’ over the weekend in which she deliberately mistranscribes a video of Steve Bannon talking about Boris. Bannon says “we went back and forth over text”, instead Carole transcribes this as “back and forth over the text” which then forms the crux of her story. The same people who’d be the first to say Bannon is a pathological liar are now taking an entirely unsubstantiated boast from him as the gospel truth before distorting it even further themselves…

Government Cocks Up Porn Laws

The Government is continuing to have a hard time getting their ludicrous Porn Laws through, this morning Jeremy Wright came to the Commons to confirm Guido’s report from last month that the Porn Laws will not be coming into force on 15th July. The problem apparently is that DCMS forgot to notify the EU of the change in the law, a cock-up which Wright says he only noticed last Friday, meaning the turgid legislation will be delayed for at least a further six months. Beautifully sums up May’s dire premiership – she can’t even get her grossly authoritarian legislation enacted because she hasn’t managed to leave the EU…

If anything this looks like a convenient excuse for ministers who have belatedly realised just how counterproductive and unenforceable the legislation will be, not to mention how deeply unpopular it will be when the unsuspecting public get caught with their pants down. Guido has spoken to MPs and ministers who were genuinely taken aback when they realised just how much of a mess the Government’s bone-headed policy is. DCMS won’t give a hard deadline following this third delay, by the time a new PM takes over the legislation will be so limp they should just toss it out…

Tory Leadership Cat-astrophe

Pakistan’s ruling party discovered the purrils of social media over the weekend after an unfur-tunate incident – politicians from Imran Khan’s party were left unamew-sed after the party’s official Facebook feed livestreamed a press conference. With a cat filter on:

The party evidently didn’t see the funny side and issued a humourless clarification for their cat-astrophic error. To stop Westminster watchers feline left out, Guido has given the Tory leadership contenders a similar makeover for your purr-usal:

Purr-haps the only surprise is that Rory Stewart hasn’t done it himself already…

ChUKs and TIGs Now Fighting Over Data

The splitting of the ChUKs and the TIGs is not without pain whatever they spin to their media friends. A row is developing about “who owns the data?”

Legally The Independent Group (TIG) Limited controls the data. Gavin Shuker resigned as a director on 21 May, 2019. The company is registered as the data controller with the ICO. So far so clear…

Chris Leslie’s wife, Nicola Murphy, was appointed a director in his place, along with Anna Soubry’s other half, Neil Davidson. So the Leslie – Soubry axis of ChUK would appear to be in control of the political data of hundreds of thousands of people and, more importantly, the ability to tap them up for financing. Not quite.

Shuker quite properly argues the data was collected in the first instance on behalf of The Independent Group. Which is now back in business with the defecting MPs. Too bad say the ChUKs, we’re in control now…

Except the controlling shareholder is still one Gavin Shuker, with the legal power to hire and fire the directors. So the TIGs actually control the ChUK’s company legally and the ICO will probably side with Shuker if it goes to court. The ICO are unlikely to look kindly on two organisations sharing the same data…

See also ChUKs Infighting Kicks Off Blame Game

Boris Launches Official Campaign Website

Continuing their soft launch this week, today Team Boris have launched BackBoris.com, their official campaign website. It is hoping to sign up Conservative Party members, Councillors, as well as recruit an army of social media ambassadors and people who will host events. It’s all kicking off…

Freedom Victory: Porn Laws Could Be Delayed

Theresa May’s porn block was originally set to be introduced last year, first it was delayed to the start of April 2019 and then moved back again to July 15. Now the Daily Star is reporting that it could be delayed yet again after Government figures acknowledged they will be unable to enforce the totalitarian Porn Laws if browsers such as Firefox and Chrome roll out DNS encryption, which both major browsers are reportedly working on. Kleenex shareholders will be breathing sighs of relief…

The freedom lovers at the Adam Smith Institute are naturally very pleased too:

“A delay isn’t quite a drop, but this dreadful policy is clearly losing support in government as MPs wake up to the reality of how unpopular blocking their constituents’ porn is. The next leader has to be someone who understands the state has no business in how voters choose to get busy.”

The last thing that’s going to endear politicians to voters when they’re having time to themselves is the hand of the state reaching in instead…

What Porn Sites Will Look Like From July 15

Theresa May may have failed to get Brexit through but at least she’ll still be leaving behind a momentous legacy – banning plastic straws and blocking porn sites. Guido brings you the pictures you don’t want to see – what adult websites in the UK will look like after the Porn Laws come in on 15th July:

It’s not like there’s been a spate of large-scale personal data breaches over recent years which could cause any issues with linking people’s individual ‘browsing’ habits with specific user IDs. Nor will there be hundreds of scammers waiting in the wings to set up fake websites to steal gullible punters’ credit card details. Tech-savvy teenagers will simply get round it with VPNs, it’s older users who are more likely to end up in a sticky situation. Or not…

H/t Continental Telegraph

Remainers Overwhelmingly Outspent Leavers on Facebook

Guido reported during the campaign, Change UK were massively outstripping the spending of other parties on Facebook throughout the election. By the last week of the campaign, the Lib Dems caught up with Change UK, followed by the Greens, Labour, then the Tories. In that crucial week, of the parties in England that won seats, the Brexit Party spent the least and won the most…

Remainers Set Up Data Harvesting Shell Campaign

After spending years accusing Vote Leave of setting up another group to get around spending limits while studiously avoiding questions about the five new campaigns they set up and into which they funnelled more than £1 million in the month before the referendum, Remainers have been up to their old tricks again with another youth-focused campaign. Predictably, it looks like yet another attempt to gather data and avoid spending limits…

The ‘Vote for Your Future’ campaign was co-founded by Lara Spirit, a director of the astroturf Our Future, Our Choice campaign. OFOC likes to say it’s independent of the People’s Vote campaign, it’s just pure coincidence that the two campaigns share each other’s content, donations, office space, etc… OFOC were busy telling their activists to campaign across universities under the guise of this new organisation…

But just how neutral is this campaign? Vote for Your Future says on its heavily advertised sign-up page that the data it collects will be processed “on behalf of Our Future, Our Choice! (OFOC!) Ltd.” Like Remain’s 2016 shell campaigns, ‘Vote for Your Future’ uses Keira Knightley and a bunch of other big name Remainers in their digital content. It also states in its Privacy Policy that:

“If Vote For Your Future, or substantially all of its assets, were acquired, or in the unlikely event that Vote For Your Future goes out of business or enters bankruptcy, user information would be one of the assets that is transferred or acquired by a third party. You acknowledge that such transfers may occur, and that any acquirer of Vote For Your Future may continue to use your personal information as set forth in this policy.”

The Privacy Policy has clearly been written with the specific purpose of folding the business – and all of its data “assets” – back into OFOC, while shifting the advertising spend onto a different legal entity, helping to sidestep election spending rules. Vote for Your Future can just be quietly wound down after doing its job of collecting huge amounts of personal data of people as young as 16. All held ready for acquisition by Big Remain’s data machine…

UPDATE: An Our Future Our Choice spokesperson has been in touch to tell Guido that “A VFYF spokesperson said: “Vote For Your Future is a politically neutral campaign” that has “maintained scrupulous neutrality, and at no time have we told young people which way to vote.” Definitely not a front group…

‘Tesco Tax’ Will Be Unpopular With Voters

Guido doesn’t want to pay extra taxes “to save the High Street”. In fact it seems quite obvious that millions of people like getting cheaper goods delivered direct to their door. Of course rivals want to handicap their competitors in their own self-interest. Perhaps politicians should side with consumers rather than producers for once?

Converting high streets into residential streets might even help with high-priced housing costs in urban areas. Which will please younger voters!

Remain’s Facebook ‘Dark Money’ Massively Outweighs Leave

New data published by Facebook has revealed that yet again Remain is massively outspending Leave on social media, with almost twice as much money being spent by second referendum groups. Guido has listed relevant Facebook spending above £10,000…

  • People’s Vote: £433,384
  • Britain’s Future £422,746
  • Best For Britain: £317,463
  • UK Government*: £245,353
  • The Conservative Party*: £114,924
  • Liberal Democrats: £82,600
  • The Labour Party*: £75,462
  • We are the 52%: £51,845
  • Right To Vote: £27,296
  • The Brexit Party £19,082
  • Renew: £13,275

In total this puts dedicated big Remain spending at £874,018, compared to just £493,673 for Leave. This hasn’t stopped the media attacking The Brexit Party for spending less than £20,000. Loopy Remainers have even called this ‘Dark Money’…

But it isn’t. Political parties have to declare their funding by law. The ‘dark money’ listed here is that which is spent by pressure groups like People’s Vote and Best for Britain, not political parties. This puts the Leave ‘dark money spend at £474,591, compared to a Remain ‘dark money’ spend of £778,143. More post truth politics from Remain campaigners…

*Groups not specifically advertising about Brexit

ChUK Microtargeting Guardian Readers on Facebook

Change UK – The Independent Group – Remain Alliance have been spending money micro-targeting adverts on Facebook to focus on their core electorate which at the moment is seemingly just readers of The Guardian. Quite a tight voter pool considering Guardian circulation stands at just 141,160. That’s about half as many votes as the unsuccessful and niche ‘An Independence from Europe’ party achieved in 2014…

Porn Laws Coming Into Force in July

The Government has announced that its authoritarian internet porn ban will be coming into force on 15th July. People in Britain will need to hand over their credit card details or buy a government-approved porn pass from a newsagent from £8.99 to access online porn from then. Tech-savvy Generation Z-ers will just get round it with a VPN…

Digital Minister Margot James says: “We want the UK to be the safest place in the world to be online, and these new laws will help us achieve this.” Combined with the Government’s impending assault on the wider internet and its latest genius plans to crack down on… Netflix and Amazon Video, the UK is rapidly becoming the most repressive democracy in the world to be online.

The Adam Smith Institute’s Matthew Lesh says “This scheme, that requires linking of people’s identity to their online adult viewing habits, will seriously threaten our privacy, be a massive gift to scammers, and won’t even work. Young people will just get around it, and end up being exposed to more hardcore material.” The Government’s sledgehammer approach to the internet is what you’d expect from an authoritarian regime like China or Saudi Arabia, not the liberal democracy that invented it…

Child Protection is the Job of Parents Not ‘iPlod’

The proponents of the Online Harms White Paper are trying to frame it as a child protection and anti-terrorism measure. Guido is willing to accept that is the government’s intention and that it is under pressure from the newspaper industry to hit the global platforms. Almost every day News UK and Associated Newspapers titles run a shock horror story about Facebook or Twitter or one of the other social media platforms. Often it is focused on child protection – children committing suicide, children being groomed, children falling for scams, children seeing an advert for a high sugar product. Do not underestimate how much pressure this puts ministers under when there is a “something must be done” clamour.

According to the government the something that must be done is the creation of yet another quango, an online regulator. Dubbed by Toby Young “iPlod“.

Guido has no doubt as to the harms done by child sexual abuse or terrorist propaganda online, it is however already the case that these things are illegal. Introducing a new law will not change the enforcement problems, which go unaddressed in the White Paper. The best form of child protection is preventing your children having access to this material. Why does your 7 year-old child need a smart phone? Why is your daughter on Snapchat, an app originally designed to enable the sending of a quick nude picture that will selfie-destruct after a maximum of 10 seconds. New legal controls are no substitute for parental control.

The online harms that the White Paper has trouble defining include cyber-bullying and trolling, both of which it says are unacceptable. People being rude to one another online does not require a legislative response. The police have better things to do than arrest people for being rude on Twitter.

There is also the collateral damage to press freedom from a new regulator, Toby Young argues in tomorrow’s Spectator cover story that the White Paper if it became law “iPlod” would mean that any companies “that allow users to share or discover user-generated content or interact with each other online” will be “in scope” so that includes newspapers and magazines. This is arguably state regulation of the press by the back door and has no place in a free society. Sajid should be opposing it as vigorously as he opposed Labour’s attempts to set up a state press regulator, not championing it.

Government Wants to Give State Power to Ban Websites

 

Last week Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced he was appointing Amal Clooney as the UK’s envoy on media freedom. Today Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has put out a government White Paper on ‘Online Harms’ which includes proposals for a regulator which will have the power to ban the websites of non-compliant companies from being accessed in the UK at all. Someone tell Amal quick!

You would think that the likes of Facebook and Twitter would be up in arms – they are not because as Dom Hallas, Executive Director of The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec), says

“Everyone, including British startups, shares the goal of a safer internet – but these plans will entrench the tech giants, not punish them. The vast scope of the proposals means they cover not just social media but virtually the entire internet – from file sharing to newspaper comment sections. Those most impacted will not be the tech giants the Government claims they are targeting, but everyone else. It will benefit the largest platforms with the resources and legal might to comply – and restrict the ability of Britissh startups to compete fairly. There is a reason that Mark Zuckerberg has called for more regulation. It is in Facebook’s business interest.”

86% of UK investors surveyed by Coadec say that proposals claiming to tackle tech giants could lead to poor outcomes that inadvertently damage tech startups and hamper competition. As with the GDPR and we are likely to see with the Copyright Directive, the tech giants are in fact best placed to absorb wide-ranging regulation. There is a real risk of the global platforms getting bigger and British startups suffering.

There is also a risk that a future Corbyn govenment will use the legislation against political opponents. When you see the likes of Owen Jones being applauded for describing the Spectator, Sun, Mail, Telegraph, Express and of course Guido, as “spreading hate”, you can easily imagine the legislation being used by a Corbyn government to close down dissident media. This is a dangerous path being foolishly and short-sightedly cheered on by newspapers who think it will scupper the global platforms who are eating into their advertising revenue.

See: Coadec report with the survey data referred to can be found in full here.

Programmers Add 72,000 Fake Signatures to Article 50 Petition With £22 and 3 Hours’ Work

MPs debated the viral Revoke Article 50 petition yesterday, Chris Leslie insisted “we must fight for those who signed the petition”. Unfortunately for Leslie there’s no way of verifying exactly who “those who signed the petition” really are – as Guido revealed at the time thousands of signatures came from as far afield as Western Sahara and North Korea. As even the BBC reported over the second referendum petition back in 2016, it is all too easy for people to hijack petitions with simple programmes that submit fake signatures…

A digital marketing agency in Manchester, Kent House, decided to run a little experiment to test how easy the petition was to manipulate. They found that with a basic code written in only three hours, £12 to set up a catch-all inbox and £10 for proxy servers to spoof IP addresses, they were able to successfully submit 72,000 fake signatures over just one weekend. Every ‘signature’ had a unique name, unique email address, a valid UK postcode, and was verified by email.

These programmers weren’t even trying to distort the petition, they simply wanted to show how easily it could be done. If a Remainer with basic coding knowledge and a few quid actually wanted to manipulate the petition, this shows they could easily add on hundreds of thousands of fake ‘signatures’ in just a few days. Ultimately there’s only one number that counts, the number of votes on 23 June 2016…

MEPs “Tricked” Into Voting Wrong Way Over Article 13

The EU’s internet-killing new Copyright Directive has become mired in a fresh layer of controversy after it emerged that multiple MEPs were “tricked” into voting the wrong way on it. Guido understands that an extra vote was inserted into the voting list at the last minute which threw most MEPs’ voting lists out of sync. Unlike the Commons where MPs have to physically make the decision to walk through lobbies, MEPs just robotically press buttons according to a long voting list handed out to them. A clear warning of the dangers of electronic voting…

At least 13 MEPs have told the European Parliament they accidentally voted the wrong way. Now the EU has modified their individual voting records but has refused to revisit the result of the vote, despite the fact there was a majority of just 5 MEPs. The EU also rejected a direct request from MEPs to stage the entire vote again. This blocked MEPs from voting on any amendments, including on the meme-banning Article 13

Brexit Party MEP Bill Etheridge tells Guido “it’s appalling, but that’s how this place works on a regular basis. It’s only come to people’s attention this time because it’s a high profile issue”. Etheridge says his group’s staff were sharp enough to spot the switch but many other groups weren’t, he knows several ECR and other MEPs who are “mortified” after voting the wrong way on it. Now the internet-killing law has been passed the EU simply doesn’t care. “Democracy” EU-style…

EU Votes Through Article 13, Kills the Internet

Remainers scoffed when Guido warned them that the EU was banning memes last year. They’re not laughing now the European Parliament has passed the final law to approve the ban with minimal changes. 348 MEPs you’ve never heard of overruled 278 MEPs you’ve also probably never heard of. So much for all that democratic accountability Remainers like to go on about…

It’s hard to overstate just how damaging Article 13 will be to the internet, it does not just kill memes, it will force all online publishers to filter any material that could potentially be copyrighted, from pictures and short snippets of music to funny GIFs. The similarly worrying Article 11 requiring websites to pay news websites for every article shared on them has also been passed. Anyone in the EU can kiss goodbye to the free and open internet as we know it…

‘Revoke Article 50’ Petition Creator Threatened May, Discussed How to Buy “Legal” Guns and Take Them to Commons

Remainers and Leavers alike have been getting a little too excited about the Revoke Article 50 Petition. Yes, you can sign it as many times as you like with made up email addresses and whatever name and country you care to put in.[…] Read the rest

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Quote of the Day

Dr Alexander Kogan, the app developer who originally harvested the Facebook data, said…

“I think what Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic and made claims this is incredibly accurate and it tells you everything there is to tell about you. But I think the reality is it’s not that. If you sit down and you really work through the statistics and you think what does a correlation of point three means, those claims quickly fall apart. And that’s something any person with a statistical background can go and do.”

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