EU Votes to Ban Memes

The EU Parliament voted by a margin of 2:1 today to adopt Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive, a stringent copyright restriction that has the potential to ban memes. MEPs were made to vote again after having voted to reject it in July. Sound familiar?

Article 13 requires web companies to automatically filter out any copyrighted content, from songs to videos to even pictures. Say goodbye to your favourite gifs, movie stills, or other potentially copyrighted material on any social network. 

Article 11 of the directive also is also deeply troubling for web freedom, in requiring internet companies to pay news outlets for hosting their content, potentially even just previews of articles.

This is just the latest anti-tech anti-consumer attack from the EU after they ludicrously fined Google billions of Euro’s earlier this year, and the year before.

This vote is not the end of the process, however. Every amendment passed today will have to go through behind-closed-doors negotiations between EU bureaucrats and EU member states. We can expect another vote on this ludicrous legislation in January 2019. Brexit can’t come soon enough…

Maybot to Feature at Tory Conference

The official fringe guide to Tory Party Conference has been released by CCHQ and on one eye catching event, panellists including Rob Halfon MP and “Zeno the robot” will be discussing how long it will take for Britain to have a robot for Prime Minister. Guido would gently suggest that we have had one for some time…

Iran-Linked Facebook Groups Push Pro-Corbyn Propaganda

Facebook has removed more than 284 pages and accounts with apparent links to Iran across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Cyber security firm FireEye tipped Facebook off to the accounts it says are likely to be part of an Iranian state media network and are dedicated to pushing Iranian foreign policy aims. Among these appear to be the election of Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish independence.

The pages, which had names like ‘Free Scotland 2014’ and ‘The British Left’ were followed by almost one million Facebook users. Before he became leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn took up to £20,000 in fees from the Iranian state broadcaster PressTV. Iran is Israel’s primary strategic enemy, no surprise they back Jeremy Corbyn…

 

I’m Supporting #Positive Twitter Day on Friday, August 31

On August 31 back in 2012 Sunder Katwala and Guido promoted with temporary success, a “Positive Twitter Day“. Twitter, especially the political Twittersphere, can be a horrible nasty place, what with the culture wars and political extremists generally being unpleasant. None of us are immune from it. Wouldn’t it be pleasantly calming if for just one day we all tried to be nice and civil in our tweets? The idea came originally from the invariably polite Sunder Katwala and he agrees with Guido we should try again. We sorely need to try again…

If well known Twitter curmudgeons re-tweeted the hashtag #PositiveTwitterDay and entered into the spirit of the day on Friday, August 31, it might spread a bit of civility in these polarised times. Guido for his part is determined to have civil, positive discussions today with the likes of Owen or Raheem. The power of positive tweeting…

To tweet your support just click this link #PositiveTwitterDay

The Exiling of InfoWars from Social Media

Guido is instinctively uncomfortable with censorship, even of liars. In the marketplace of ideas, good ideas should best bad ideas in free debate. That is the theory. So the exiling of Alex Jones from Facebook, Apple’s iTunes, YouTube, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Flickr, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn and MailChimp seems to be shutting down open debate. Twitter have now put Alex Jones in a half-way house where he is unable to tweet. That cuts off Alex Jones from most of his audience.

He’s not completely exiled from public discourse, the InfoWars apps are available to download, his website is running. His freedom of speech has not been taken away, Big Tech has just exiled him from their huge social media audiences. They are it seems to Guido making an example of him because he is the highest profile “fake news” outlet associated with Trump. The tech titans are of course completely within their rights to purge InfoWars from their platforms.

Jones says “Mass censorship of conservatives and libertarians is exploding. You’ve already seen this with the demonetization and ultimate purge of Infowars and other alternative media outlets by mega-corporations working in tangent to stifle competition.” He is right in that it really does seem that it is right-of-centre voices that are being purged disproportionately, the left argues that is because the right are disproportionately “haters”. The alt-right does revel in being provocatively confrontational. Milo being kicked off Twitter was an early sign of this reaction.

If the social media platforms are going to start discriminating about what content they will host and distribute they will become like the US TV networks, seen as partisan and thus subject to partisan heckling. The left are hard-wired to “no platform” people, banning voices they don’t like, the right are not so temperamentally inclined. This means there is a continuous lobbying from the left to silence people they don’t like; the ceaseless effort to get advertiser boycotts of the popular press, to get Nigel Farage off LBC, Owen Jones’ shrill screeching about Andrew Neil (nothing to do with his humiliation at Brillo’s hands). Does all this matter much to voters? Only at the margins, those who want Alex Jones will still be able to get Alex Jones. It increases the self-filtering effect on public discourse. As our information sources become ever more filtered we live in our own increasingly polarised social media echo chambers, that is not good for democracy.

Civil Service Headcount Still Rising in London

The Civil Service is ripe for reducing numbers, digital automation and A.I. should bring a merciful demise to a lot of paper-pushers doing mundane jobs. Think about all the processes that have become digitised; driving licences and tax filing for example. Headcount for the civil service has gone down in most places since 2010. Yet in London it has been going up for the last 5 years…

The number of civil servants in London rose by a massive 5,000 last year, in fact civil service headcount has been rising overall and median pay rose at above inflation rates. The wage bill in London alone rose by hundreds of millions. The initial Osborne/Maude onslaught on the bureaucratic fat after 13 years of Labour lethargy saw over 100,000 pen pushers find jobs in the private sector under the coalition. Now with a mangerialist government the Treasury has lost the will to bear down on the headcount. Despite the massive opportunity to reduce paperwork and civil service numbers through digitalisation of services the headcount is steadily rising. What happened to the quangocides we were promised? The state and para-statal organisations seem to be ever expanding…

Tories Jump On Love Island Bandwagon

The Tories are taking data collection lessons from Labour and Momentum – angling for Love Island fans’ contact details in return for a chance to win some snazzy water bottles. Their new casually written splash page informs fans that some of the Love Island water bottles will have a political twist, such as the message “Don’t let Corbyn mug you off”, but, if you’re lucky, others won’t. The application form is rounded off by three cringe hashtags: “#FreeMerch #FinalCountdown #DontBeAMelt”. Not sure how these are “Love Island water bottles” in any way other than they use some slightly similar looking water bottles on Love Island. Possibly a clever way of getting under 30s’ voter data. Definitely a better strategy than their old Insta page

Scottish Rockets: A Correction

Yesterday Guido suggested that siting a spaceport in Sutherland, Soctland at latitude: 58° 10′ 18.00″ N was not a good idea. Given that it will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world and the reason spaceports are usually and preferably sited near the Equator is because that is where the Earth’s rotational speed is the highest. Rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters. So putting a spaceport in the North of a northern hemisphere country seemed just plain dumb.

A number of well informed readers have been in touch to dispute this, claiming that Scotland is perfect for “polar orbit launches”. Scotland is apparently a world leader in the production of handbag-sized satellites that can be launched by small rockets into Low Earth Orbit. Not altogether clear if they can be launched using an upturned pre-shaken bottle of Irn Bru as propellant, though the science is developing.

In the circumstances Guido feels we should clarify and correct the record. We have learnt two things; sometimes it pays to read more than the headline on a press release, a lot of rocket scientists read Guido…

UK Government Spaceport Sited in Worst Place

The government is getting excited, the UK is set for new space age! Launching rockets into space from Scotland, supported by the taxpayers with spaceflight grants worth over £30 million as part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy. Sutherland at latitude: 58° 10′ 18.00″ N will be the northernmost operational spaceport in the world. The reason spaceports are usually and preferably sited near the Equator is because that is where the Earth’s rotational speed is the highest. Rockets launched from sites near the Equator get an additional natural boost that helps save the cost of putting in extra fuel and boosters. So putting a spaceport in the North of a northern hemisphere country is just plain dumb.

This is why government industrial strategies are a bad idea. Politicians pick projects for political reasons, “local jobs” – a for-profit enterprise would never consider a launch site at this a northern latitude. There are plenty of British territories nearer the Equator. Even Cornwall would be a better launch site…

UPDATE: Scottish Rockets: Correction

Labour Party’s Data Broker Fined £140,000 By Information Commissioner

The company from which Labour bought the personal data of more than a million individuals during the 2017 election has been fined £140,000 by the Information Commissioner for a “serious contravention” of the Data Protection Act.

The Information Commissioner’s Office ruled that Lifecycle Marketing Mother and Baby Ltd (LCMB), trading as Emma’s Diary

“…contravened DPP1 by selling the personal data of more than 1 million individuals to the Labour Party for use in the Labour Party’s general election campaign in 2AL7 without informing those individuals that it might do so, As a result, LCMB processed that personal data unfairly and without satisfying any processing condition under Schedule 2 DPA.”

The ICO found:

In May 2017, LCMB supplied 7,065,220 records to Experian Marketing Services under a data supply agreement listing the Labour Party as Experian’s client. The data supply agreement specified the delivery date for the data as 5 May 2017…

Each record comprised the following personal data: name of parent, household address, the presence of children up to 5 years old and date of birth of both mother and child. The records thus comprised the personal data of both mothers and young children. LCMB obtained that personal data via its online registration on its website and via an offline registration form.

Experian, apparently acting as an agent or processor on behalf of the Labour Party, loaded those records onto a database it hosted for the Labour Party to assist the Labour Party with a direct marketing mail campaign for the general election in 2017. LCMB told the Commissioner that the records it supplied would have helped the Labour Party send political marketing communications to people with young children about, for example, Labour’s intention to protect Sure Start centres. This was done in the constituencies for 106 parliamentary seats.

According to LCMB, the records it disclosed were deleted by Experian following the general election on B June 2017. In its letter to the Commissioner of 30 January 2018, LCMB told the Commissioner that “All data supplied agreed to be contacted via the postal channel and by 3rd party marketers and the usage of the mums’ data is fully outlined within or Privacy Policy,” It transpired, however, that this was not the case.

A Labour spokesman says the party will no longer be using the company and will be reviewing how they purchase their data. Labour they insist bought the data in good faith. There is no indication the party itself has broken the law.

“We welcome the ICO’s report. The Labour Party holds data from a variety of sources, like all UK political parties. We have neither bought nor used Emma’s Diary data since the 2017 general election and we will be reviewing our approach to acquiring data from third parties in light of the ICO’s report.”

Labour MPs have been tweeting about the ICO report on Facebook data breaches all day. Oddly none have mentioned the above finding. Sure Carole Cadwalladr will be splashing on this for the Observer this weekend…

Williamson Heckled By Siri

Gavin Williamson’s phone goes off as he speaks at the despatch box. Was he heckled by the sound of his own voice? One of his Insta stories from the Commons chamber? With the audio turned up, it turns out it was actually Siri: “I’ve found something on the web for Syrian Democratic Forces”

Perhaps soon AI will be able to replace MPs as lobby fodder. Dread to think what else Siri has overheard the Defence Secretary say…

Assange Out In July?

Not a very subtle prod to Julian Assange here from FCO minister Alan Duncan, assuring him that he will be given medical attention if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy. Interesting that this follows the Guardian reporting that he may be on the way out of the Embassy soon – Guido hears similar whispers. Watch this space…

Telegraph Tech Teething Problems

The talk inside the Telegraph at the moment is that plans are being drawn up to improve their embarrassing gender pay gap – at 35%, the biggest of any UK newspaper or broadcaster – by firing a load more male executives. That’s one way to level things up…

In order to dispel the bloodbath narrative there has been a mad scramble to launch a big new tech team. Yesterday 12 new appointments were announced as the paper tries to show some signs of life. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. The plan was to hire at least 14 tech journalists, one in London and one in California, but they couldn’t fill the other jobs. A real sign of the times that the Telegraph wants a technology correspondent in California and can’t convince anyone to do it. Several hacks were tapped up internally, and plenty more elsewhere, but no-one wants to go near it because they think the job will be canned in a year…

Labour MP CC’s All Constituents to GDPR Email

Corbynista MP Marsha De Cordova has chosen GPDR day to unleash an utterly spectacular data protection fail. In an effort to comply with the new data measures, the Battersea MP’s office sent a ‘GDPR Consent Form’ to constituents via email. There was just one problem. Her office put every constituent’s email in the address line, rather than BCC, therefore sharing dozens of personal emails addresses without permission. Good work…

Intriguingly, De Cordova’s GDPR form – by which constituents can give permission to others to handle casework on their behalf – states:

“In some cases, we may need to contact outside agencies regarding your case.  They often require additional information such as your Date of Birth, National Insurance Number and any reference numbers you may have obtained through previous contact with the agency.  Please supply us with this information where appropriate in the section below.”

So in order to sign up to the MP’s GDPR-compliant process, constituents have to surrender even more of their personal information. MPs are having a GDPR meltdown, but this takes some beating…

Crowdpac UK Shuts

Crowdpac, the Steve Hilton backed start-up to crowd fund political campaigns, is shutting down its UK arm today. Having raised only £600,000 since 2014 through the Crowdpac platform, it was losing money. Originally it was non-partisan and the intention was to bring some transparency to political funding.

It switched in 2016 to being a left-wing fundraising platform for Trump-hating Remainers. That might have worked but the management were pretty clueless about marketing and the whole vibe just came over as very US corporate in comparison to Momentum. The crowdfunding sector is very profitable when it works, Crowdpac just never achieved the necessary critical mass…

Barnier’s Lost in Space Over Galileo

Remainers are becoming more and more excited over the impact of Brexit on UK participation in EU space activities, especially the Galileo satellite network. The Galileo navigation system is the EU’s rival to US-owned GPS. A key element of the system, designed for military and emergency services, is a timing and navigation signal called the PRS (Public Regulated Service). The European Commission says the UK will not be able to access the PRS without further agreements after Brexit. Michel Barnier is weaponising the issue in his latest attempt at brinkmanship. He said yesterday:

“Third countries and their companies cannot participate in the development of security-sensitive matters.”

That’s more than a bit rich from Barnier: British experts designed much of the cryptography behind the system and developed the security technology protecting PRS. The satellites are currently controlled from Portsmouth. UK companies control the crucial security information – those firms have been reminded by ministers that they should not enter into new Galileo contracts in response to EU posturing. Moreover, the UK has poured £1.2 billion of taxpayers’ money into developing the system. It is already years late. If the EU makes an issue of it, the British will withdraw, sending costs spiralling for the EU-27 and delaying the project even further due to their lack of expertise…

Meanwhile, the UK government has already started work on its own system. A UK Space Agency spokesman said:

“The UK Space Agency is leading the work to develop options for a British alternative to Galileo, to guarantee our satellite positioning, navigation and timing needs are met in the future.”

Taking back control to infinity and beyond?

Switzerland and Canada are member countries of the European Space Agency without being in the EU or, in Canada’s case, europe. This will, as with Euratom and the Open Skies Agreement, turn out to be bluster on both sides and a deal will be done…

Labour Revoke Uber’s Licence in Brighton

The Labour administration that runs Brighton and Hove City council has revoked Uber’s licence to operate in the city. They are citing a 2016 data breach by American hackers to declare that Uber do not meet the fit and proper persons test. Uber will appeal, if they lose Brighton residents will no longer be able to use the taxi app. Socialism isn’t cool, kids…

UK Tech Investment Surges 115%

We were warned before the referendum by George Osborne, economists, think tanks, the IMF, OECD and investment banks that business confidence would collapse and investment would dry up if Britain voted to Brexit. Last year, the first full year when investors knew Britain would be Brexiting, saw tech investment hit a record with €7.1 billion* raised, a 115% year-on-year increase in investment in the high-tech industries and firms of the future. That is more than France and Germany combined…

Source: a report by technology investment firm GP Bullhound.

Twitter Down

Twitter is down – thousands of users have reported service interruptions and difficulties accessing their timelines. The Down Detector website recorded a spike in outages. TweetDeck seems unaffected. You’ve gone too far this time, Vlad…

590 Million Facebook Profiles Potentially Harvested By Guardian App

The Observer’s main revelation over the last couple of weeks has been their claim that Cambridge Analytica harvested data from 50 million Facebook accounts. They found that CA’s Aleksander Kogan collected data from 270,000 accounts and was able to access data from all their friends – on average 185 users per account – making up a total of 50 million.[…] 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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