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. We should celebrate this more. As Mayor, I will champion our region”

So, besides soundbites, what has candidate Siôn done to champion his region?

Well to be fair there is not a lot he can do out of power. He does however have a fancy campaign website – so what Brummie web wizards did he get in to showcase Britain’s would be capital of technology by building his website? Errr…

His website was built by Tectonica, in Buenos Aires, Argentina: 

So much for bringing those technology jobs to the West Midlands…

Davis: Encryption Ban Devastating, May “Laughable”

As Amber Rudd ramps up the government’s draconian rhetoric on encryption, it could fall upon one of Theresa May’s close Cabinet allies to stand up for civil liberties. In November 2015 David Davis, then a humble backbencher, wrote this article for the FT blasting the Cameron government’s proposal to ban end-to-end encryption:

“The government’s approach to encryption also leaves much to be desired. At least it did not go ahead with Prime Minister David Cameron’s unwise proposal this year to ban end-to-end encryption — the unbreakable code that makes it impossible to read our online messages and transactions even if they are intercepted. Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about.”

Davis pointed out that ending encryption would be

“likely to strangle UK tech businesses, by prohibiting the spread of encryption to those services that do not already use it. This will put our communications companies at a severe disadvantage, as their overseas competitors are permitted to offer fully secure services forbidden to UK companies.”

And he had these choice words for the then Home Secretary Theresa May:

“The proposed authorisation and oversight are nowhere near as intelligent as the American, Canadian, German or Dutch systems. The claim by Theresa May, home secretary, that ours will be one of the strongest systems in the world is laughable. It will arguably still be the worst.”

Surely DD will not waver from his admirable stance just a year and a half ago…

Amber Rudd and Fleet Street Don’t Understand Encryption

Following Amber Rudd’s talk of “necessary hashtags” and how “we don’t want to go into the cloud”, you’d be forgiven for thinking she is something of a digital immigrant. The Home Secretary has her sights trained on the messaging service WhatsApp and end-to-end encryption, the system which means a conversation can be read only by the sender and recipient and not intercepted by a middle man. Here’s why that’s a red herring…

1. A backdoor to end-to-end encryption would not have stopped the Westminster attack

Khalid Masood was not on the security services’ radar. So even if MI5 and GCHQ were able to intercept his WhatsApp messages before the attack, they would not have done so. The attack would have proceeded all the same. Any change in law or policy would have made no difference.

2. End-to-end encryption is not preventing MI5 read Masood’s messages

Rudd says detectives cannot access Masood’s final messages and that WhatsApp’s complicity in this is “unacceptable“. Today’s Telegraph front page says “Internet giants hide terrorist’s final note”. This is just wrong. WhatsApp do not have access to the unencrypted messages – the messages can only be read on the phones of the sender and recipient. The police presumably have Masood’s phone, it is highly likely they are now inside and able to read the messages. The only thing stopping them get in would be the phone’s passcode. Which is nothing to do with WhatsApp.

3. Encryption is binary

Either you have end-to-end encryption or you don’t. Giving MI5 and GCHQ a backdoor into WhatsApp means the service is no longer secure and any hacker can break in to any user’s messages. As Open Rights Group say, “compelling companies to put backdoors into encrypted services would make millions of ordinary people less secure online. We all rely on encryption to protect our ability to communicate, shop and bank safely”Rudd is asking WhatsApp to open up all their users to attacks by cyber criminals and foreign regimes. 

The Home Secretary is using encryption as a scapegoat when it is completely irrelevant to the Westminster attack. She is being aided by establishment journalists who do not understand technology – Andrew Marr’s interview was pathetic in its amateurism and today’s Telegraph front page is factually incorrect. As a side note, newspapers have splashed on attacks on Facebook, Google, YouTube, Uber and WhatsApp in the last week, today’s Mail bizarrely claims WordPress is helping terrorists. Almost as if Fleet Street has an advertising revenue-shaped ulterior motive for going after tech companies…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

Rudd: WhatsApp Unacceptable

Pro-Erdogan Mass Twitter Hack

Last night several major Twitter accounts posted tweets showing a swastika symbol and the words “Nazi Germany” and “Nazi Holland” written in Turkish. Some accounts had their header image changed to the Turkish flag in what seems to be a mass hack by supporters of the Turkish autocrat Erdogan. Affected accounts include Forbes, Amnesty International, the European Parliament, Justin Bieber, Dortmund football club, the UK Department of Health and EyeSpy.MP. It seems the hack happened via a third-party app – possibly Twitter Counter – rather than the accounts themselves being compromised. Twitter Counter claimed in November that they had secured their accounts after a hack…

Facebook Reports BBC to Police

Facebook has reported a number of BBC journalists to the police after they “provided” them with evidence of child abuse image that appeared on the social network. It is obviously illegal to distribute child abuse images, so when Facebook asked the BBC to “provide examples of the material” they had apparently found, the Beeb’s lawyers should have sounded alarm bells. Instead, the BBC “did so”, and Facebook then reported them to the National Crime Agency. As a Facebook spokesman says:

“It is against the law for anyone to distribute images of child exploitation.”

And in their write up of the story the BBC admits to have confessed all. Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to invite them in and show them in person?

How Telegraph Exploits Revenge Porn Market For Clicks

Ever wondered why newspaper websites publish so many articles about ‘revenge porn’? The answer, of course, is search engine optimisation. MediaGuido can reveal exactly how the Telegraph exploits the revenge porn market and its victims for traffic. This email was sent to journalists ordering them to “target” “popular search terms” like “revenge porn sites” and “Girlfriend revenge”.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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