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.
The Department for Education’s counter-extremism unit has reportedly ordered Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys in Canterbury to cancel a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos, the flaxen-haired Trump-supporting Breitbart provocateur. Milo was due to give a talk at his old school, which 220 pupils had signed up to attend. The school says the decision to shut the talk down was made “following contact from the Department for Education’s counter-extremism unit, the threat of demonstrations at the school by organised groups and members of the public and overall concerns for the security of the school site and the safety of our community”. They add that the talk was backed by pupils, parents and teachers and say they are disappointed at the DfE’s decision. Milo says:
“My old high school has been bullied into cancelling my talk on Tuesday by the “counter-extremism” unit at the U.K. Department of Education. Who even knew the DoE had a counter-extremism unit? And that it wasn’t set up to combat terrorism but rather to punish gays with the wrong opinions?… Disgusted.”
The DfE’s counter-extremism unit was not set up to silence satirical stage acts like Milo, Guido cannot ever recall him advocating violence – banning him from speaking at his old school is bonkers. A school is having to no-platform speakers because of government intervention and the threat of demonstrations. Have Milo’s opponents learned nothing from the last few weeks?
UPDATE: A Department for Education spokesperson said:
“When concerns are raised by members of the public following media coverage in advance of an event, the department would contact the school as a matter of routine to check they had considered any potential issues. The decision to cancel the event was a matter for the school.”
Cheeky comic Viz has fallen foul of Facebook censors this morning. The top shelf Beano famous for the outrageous antics of Roger Melly and the Fat Slags announced via Twitter that their page had been banned for polluting Facebook’s “welcoming, respectful environment.” The same environment that saw hundreds of paedophile groups allowed to post sick images and perverse comments, and gave SNP cybernats a platform to share their bullying videos during the election. Guido is sure Viz will take this threat with its usual solemnity…
The censorious bunch of self-appointed bureaucrats at the Advertising Standards Authority have targeted anti-gay marriage adverts, anti-environmentalist adverts, Fathers4Justice adverts and pro-hanging adverts in their insidious campaign against politically incorrect causes.
Now Chris Smith’s bloated regulator has decreed that a weight loss advert featuring a woman in a bikini can no longer be shown on the London Underground. Because some lefties moaned on Twitter.
The ASA say:
“Although the ad won’t appear in the meantime, we’ve launched an investigation to establish if it breaks harm and offence rules or is socially irresponsible. We will now carefully and objectively explore the complaints that have prompted concerns around body confidence and promptly publish our findings.”
These people must be stopped.
The loudest cheer at UKIP conference was for the party’s candidate in Rotherham, Jane Collins, who made a series of explosive allegations about several Labour MPs’ alleged involvement in the town’s child abuse scandal. Now Labour’s Rotherham MPs Sarah Champion, John Healey and Kevin Barron are suing her for libel and slander. Her speech had the journalists in the room choking on their coffees…
This image is a screengrab from last night’s News at Ten. The BBC web page explaining their editorial guidelines on the issue has mysteriously disappeared today. A very big Mo-ment for free speech…
It seems Dimbleby was still reading from the now ancient text on Question Time after the image went out last night:
“The prophet Mohammed must not be represented in any shape or form.”
Guido has contacted the BBC press office to see if they have had any complaints or threats…
UPDATE: BBC confirms the change in policy:
“This guidance is old, out of date and does not reflect the BBC’s long-standing position that programme makers have freedom to exercise their editorial judgement with the Editorial Policy team available to provide advice around sensitive issues on a case by case basis. The guidance is currently being revised.”
They had no complaints.