YouGov Polling Shows Tory Members Hate Online Harms Bill

Covering the IEA’s new report on the free speech-attacking Online Harms Bill (OHB) this morning, Guido noted “If the government wants to get the Boris show back on the road, and reassure Tory members and MPs that this government is worth fighting for – while saving at least £2.5 billion – scrapping swathes of this big-state bill could not be a more obvious starting point.” New polling released today, coinciding with the IEA’s report, shows this was on the money…

The poll of 982 Tory Party members, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Legal to Type, Legal to Say campaign, is crystal clear that the government is utterly barking up the wrong tree here. When asked “Do you think people should or should not be able to post content online that is legal, but that some people might find offensive or harmful?”, as the OHB aims to prevent, 79% of members said people should be able to do so.

Asked whether they believe there should be a discrepancy between what is legal to say online and offline, as Lord Frost today points out the OHB will create, again 79% say “anything that is legal to say in public should be legal to say online”. Just 17% believe “there are some things that are legal to say in person, which should not be legal to say online”.

Asked whether they trust Ofcom to be impartial, 51% of members said either not very much or not at all, versus 38% who answered a great deal or a fair amount.

Asked to rank issues relating to online safety by priority for the government, 73% agreed that illegal content such as child sexual abuse is important, followed by 58% for terrorism materials and 41% for illegal online abuse such as stalking, racial abuse and harassment. Just 3% said the government should prioritise “comments which are offensive but do not break any laws”. 

While 81% of Tory members trust Boris Johnson to care about freedom of speech, by contrast 80% do not trust social media companies – the people who will be given much greater moderating responsibilities after the OHB comes into force – to protect it. This all seems cut and dry. It will be very difficult for the PM to point to a change of thinking and strategy over the coming months if the anti-free speech provisions in the Online Harms Bill are not dropped…

mdi-timer 27 June 2022 @ 15:26 27 Jun 2022 @ 15:26 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Lord Frost Takes Fight to Online Harms Bill, as Cost Balloons by £400 Million

Today Lord Frost joins Guido in the fight against the Online Harms Bill, launching an all-out assault on its threat to free speech. Frost’s no holds barred attack, including calling the bill “fundamentally flawed” and un-conservative, has been published alongside a new paper by the IEA, which accuses the bill of handing “unprecedented censorship powers to Secretary of State and Ofcom”. Objectively correct.

In full, Frost says:

“There is so much wrong with this Bill that it is hard to know where to start, but the report rightly highlights the fact that it will mean some speech that is legal offline will effectively be impossible online. That makes no sense and will be highly damaging to public debate, especially given the weakness of the free speech protections in the Bill.

Overall the Bill also panders to the view of the perennially offended – those who think the Government should protect them from ever encountering anything they disagree with.  A Conservative Government should not be putting this view into law.

“The best thing the Government could do would be to slim down the Bill so they can proceed rapidly with the genuinely uncontroversial aspects, and consign the rest where it belongs – the waste paper basket.”

Reading through the IEA’s paper, one thing that immediately jumps out to Guido is that the government’s own expected cost of the bill has jumped up from £2.1 billion in May 2021 to £2.5 billion today – a whole £400 million extra in a year. A figure the IEA rubbishes as a nonsense underestimation anyway:

“The impact assessment asserts that it will cost businesses, on average, £700 over ten years to read and understand the regulations, for example. However, this would not realistically cover the fees of a specialist law firm for two hours, let alone the internal staff time costs. The impact assessment specifically assumes staff will only require 30 minutes to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the 255-page legislation and 90 minutes to read, assess and change terms and conditions in response to the requirements. Legal advice is estimated to cost £39.23 per hour  an order of magnitude less than the fees of hundreds of pounds per hour typically charged by lawyers in this field.”

Turning to the inclusion of ‘legal but harmful’ speech, which platforms will have to crack down on, huge questions remain on specifics given the government has still not formally specified categories this will include. While the obvious woke labels of ‘misogynistic abuse’ will likely be included, shadow DCMS secretary Lucy Powell has already let the mask slip on the future plans of Labour ministers to massively abuse this power:

“Lucy Powell has raised concerns that the Bill as it stands would allow ‘incels’ and ‘climate deniers’ to ‘slip through the net’. She clearly envisages an extension of the notion of ‘harmful’ to cover matters of public policy debate.”

David Davis also pitches in, warning “could end up being one of the most significant accidental infringements on free speech in modern times.” Guido can’t understand why Nadine believes this won’t backfire on Conservatives like her. Big Brother Watch already proved that her “nail your balls to the floor” tweet, if posted to Facebook, results in the post being deleted by the platform. That’s before her new free speech clamp down comes into force…

Guido encourages all policymakers to read the paper – embedded below. If the government wants to get the Boris show back on the road, and reassure Tory members and MPs that this government is worth fighting for – while saving at least £2.5 billion – scrapping swathes of this big-state bill could not be a more obvious starting point…

Read More

mdi-timer 27 June 2022 @ 11:45 27 Jun 2022 @ 11:45 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
EXCLUSIVE: Yvette Cooper’s Son Led Trans Rights Disruption of Zahawi Q&A

Last night the Telegraph reported that Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi had been subjected to a trans rights protest while visiting Warwick University last week. Zahawi was hounded off campus by a group of students accusing him of “inciting hatred” by defining “adult human females” during a talk. In tweets posted by Warwick Pride LGBTQUIA+* Association last Wednesday, the group claimed:

“Zahawi has also made very concerning comments regarding corporal punishment and has made other transphobic remarks such as using the common transphobic dog-whistle “adult human female… the notion that Zahawi does not incite hatred is ludicrous at best.”

A source close to Zahawi says he took questions for nearly half an hour, and when asked about trans rights said the issue needed to be “handled in a loving way, whilst affirming that parents need to be consulted on issues relating to their children and that the rights of trans people need protecting, just as our rights do.” They continued without holding back:

“The hyperbole from a small clutch of hysterical students stands in stark contrast to Zahawi’s caring and nuanced take, which means theese protesters are due glittering careers in a Labour front bench that can’t grasp either the rudiments or biology nor the maturity of grown-up debate.”

The Telegraph’s report missed the key involvement in the protest by one student who interrupted Zahawi’s Q&A to rant about how parents shouldn’t get a look-in if their child thinks they’re transgender. The son of Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls, Joel Cooper.

A video posted by the Warwick Labour society shows Cooper interrupting the question session while another student interrupts him to point out the son of New Labour’s power couple was blacklisted from the event, as organisers believed he and the Labour society were planning to disrupt it. After concluding his monologue he sat down to applause from fellow Labour activist gatecrashers.

Joel shared the clip, premeditatedly recorded for him by a fellow activist, to his Instagram story, where no doubt follower dad Ed Balls saw it.

The intervention from the son of the Shadow Home Secretary comes the same week as Labour once again erupts into a row about whether women can have penises. In March, Joel’s mum, Yvette, was asked on TalkRadio whether she could define what a woman was, and refused to be “drawn down a rabbit hole on this”. The same Tory source quips “The Labour party seem totally unable to shake off penisgate, just as they were getting over cervixgate. It makes one wonder why they bothered with all women shortlists for all those years”.

*Don’t ask.

mdi-timer 31 May 2022 @ 10:16 31 May 2022 @ 10:16 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Government Confirms They Will Not Arrest Elon Musk

Intervening on the story of the day, Business Minister Paul Scully has confirmed before a Commons Select Committee that the government is not planning on arresting Elon Musk the next time he visits Britain. MP Nus Ghani asked the question in light of the DCMS Online Harms Bill, which “mandates that platforms have to remove content that emotionally distresses people – so are we going to be arresting Elon Musk when he arrives in the UK, or are we going to change the Online Safety Bill?”

Scully: “We won’t be arresting Elon Musk, I can leave that with you.”

On a more serious note, as the Institute for Economic Affairs’ Matthew Lesh pointed out last night, although Elon’s victory might herald the imminent return of free speech to the platform, he’s about to run into a major UK roadblockDrop the plan, Nadine…

mdi-timer 26 April 2022 @ 12:32 26 Apr 2022 @ 12:32 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Elon Musk Buys $3 Billion Stake in Twitter

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has bought a $2.89 billion stake in Twitter, making him the largest outside shareholder in the social media firm, not long after criticising the company for failing to uphold the tenets of free speech.

Musk now owns 73,486,938 shares of Twitter, which represents a 9.2% passive stake in the company, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission filing released this morning. The stake is worth $2.89 billion, based on Twitter’s closing price on Friday. The stock has shot up some 25% in pre-market trading…

This comes less than two weeks after Musk criticised the company, polling people on Twitter about whether Twitter adheres to free speech principles. “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” Musk tweeted. “What should be done?” Guido for one welcomes Musk’s intervention, if he can stop Twitter’s increasingly woke censorship tendency…

UPDATE:  This graphic taken from a Bloomberg article about his tweeting shows how active he is on the platform:

He’s a prolific tweeter!

mdi-timer 4 April 2022 @ 12:09 4 Apr 2022 @ 12:09 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
Tory MPs Divided on Banning Steve Bray

Last week Guido reported that Michael Fabricant had written to the Speaker asking for a new 1.000 metre no-Bray zone around parliament:

“I do not believe his form of harassment of MPs and journalists is acceptable and asked whether legal action can be applied to prevent him from approaching MPs within a certain distance, say a 1,000 metres, of the Palace of Westminster.”

There’s now division among Tory ranks on this proposal: Rob Halfon has used a ConHome op-ed to argue against Fabbers’s proposal – who by coincidence used to be Halfon’s boss:

“Do I agree with Bray? Absolutely not. Do I approve of his activities? Of course I don’t. Does he suck up to MPs from the left and fail to ever challenge opposition MPs and their failings? Quelle surprise. Do I find him annoying? Who doesn’t?

But, I actually love the fact that we live in such a vibrant democracy, that our Parliament is so accessible and such an individual (like the late Brian Haw) is permitted to scream at all of us, morning, noon, and night. Those people watching Britain from afar can but marvel that Bray can shriek at ministers close-up as they walk to work.”

As Halfon, clearly a keen reader, notes, “the Lee Anderson MP v Steve Bray bouts are now a required box office viewing. It is like watching the Rocky Balboa films all over again – but better.” Guido wonders whose side Lee will come down on…

mdi-timer 24 March 2022 @ 11:29 24 Mar 2022 @ 11:29 mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-comment View Comments
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