This week, the police were probably the only ones doing more self-inflicted reputational damage than Gavin Williamson. Not only have they failed to stop M25 climate protests four days on the trot, and allowed eggs to be thrown at the king – the only people they have thrown into prison cells have been blameless journalists doing their job.
The media world were all horrified to hear the experience of LBC’s Charlotte Lynch, who ended up in a cell for five hours for reporting – at distance – the Just Stop Oil protests. Earlier in the week, a photographer and a filmmaker were also held in custody for about 13 hours.
In the end, they were all released without charge.
This morning, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Hertfordshire, David Lloyd, finally apologised to Lynch – but ruined the PR by victim-blaming journalists: they shouldn’t have been covering the protests in the first place.
“I do think that [LBC] too need to have a think about how we as a society, as a community, ensure that oxygen of publicity that Just Stop Oil is seeking is moderated, so that we don’t end up with people doing this and really they’re only doing it because they know it’s going to be reported.”
They’re not: they’re doing it because it ruins many thousands of peoples’ day.
Blaming of the media by senior police representatives is at odds with the police’s desire to get coverage of their own responses to the protests. Four days ago, the Met invited The Sun along to a showcase arrest of Extinction Rebellion founder Roger Hallam.
So much for journalists giving the groups unnecessary oxygen…
Guido was surprised to see an email from Balashovsky district court in his inbox, informing him of a court decision on the July 29th that a 2014 article regarding Russia Today should either be edited to remove certain non-permissible links, or be banned entirely for Russian co-conspirators. Of whom there are roughly 100 readers per month mostly on the orientation course for Russian diplomats…
After being informed of the court’s decision, the publisher is told they have to “take immediate measures to remove and (or) to limit the access to the Internet web-site containing information prohibited for distribution in the Russian Federation.” If Guido fails to do so, the court instructs the hosting provider to restrict access to the website “within 24 hours from receipt of the notification”. Failing to do so would be a contemp of court…
Talking of contempt, Guido replied to the takedown request with requisite respect towards the court’s decision:
Russia’s court battle with Guido will no doubt come as a surprise to Jolyon Maugham, who this morning erroneously tweeted that “Guido Fawkes started taking money from the Russian embassy and making friends with Russian spies.” Not actually the whole truth and nothing but the truth Jolyon…
Read the email in full below [PDF]:
Guido had some dealings with Julian Assange many years back. He’s difficult, prickly and perhaps not the most balanced individual. It would be fair to say he has some pretty bad character flaws. All that aside he has brought into the public domain a lot that governments did not want disclosed. Some of it recklessly endangered the lives of good people – and that should rest on his conscience. Wikileaks also revealed truths that needed to be told.
Assange’s Wikileaks exposed truths that needed to be exposed in the public interest, for that the Pentagon and the US intelligence establishment is unforgiving. Even if you believe, as Guido does, that the US is generally a force for good in the world, it does not mean that it is in the public interest that all their secrets should stay secret. After exhausting all legal avenues, Assange’s case is now before the Home Secretary and Priti Patel has to make one of the most difficult decisions of her career; accede to heavy pressure from the United States and send him to die in a US jail, or stand up for freedom of the press and free speech, even when it makes allies uncomfortable. Priti should choose to support freedom of the press and not extradite Assange. Even if he is an arsehole.
According to Melanie Dawes, the newly-appointed CEO of Ofcom, the quango will increase headcount by 400 staff ahead of new powers to police the internet in the Online Safety Bill, which will be voted on in Parliament after Easter,. That’s a lot of censors…
Ofcom’s Melanie Dawes told Times Radio
“We’ve got some tough and strong tools in our toolkit as a result of this legislation. And I think we need those. …These very strict and somewhat draconian kinds of sanctions are really only the sort of thing that you would expect to use as a serious last resort.“
The “legal but harmful” provisions in the Online Safety Bill give Big Tech’s executives like Nick Clegg the power to delete perfectly legal posts that woke social justice warriors find offensive or rude. The government is effectively outsourcing censorship to Big Tech’s bosses.
The Bill has managed to unite Toby Young’s Free Speech Union, gender critical feminists, LGBT groups, and the churches in opposition. The civil service has been so captured by woke special interest groups that the Bill released today creates a legal requirement for perfectly legal content to be taken off the internet. You’ll no longer be free to say online what you could say legally in a pub…
The Free Speech Union says
“We are particularly concerned that the government has said it will force social media platforms to remove ‘legal but harmful’ content, including ‘harassment’. That will enable political activists and interest group claiming to speak on behalf of disadvantaged groups to silence their opponents by branding any views they disagree with as ‘harassment’. The government is pouring fuel on the cancel culture fire with this legislation. Forcing social media to remove ‘legal but harmful’ content will give the permanently offended almost unlimited power to silence dissenting views.”
Given parliament’s Joint Scrutiny Committee has already recommended junking the idea of censoring ‘legal but harmful’ posts once, it seems particularly obstinate of the government to pursue the provision. The legislation gives the Secretary of State too much discretionary power to give directions as to what is “harmful” content. Nadine Dorries might not be woke, the danger is a future Labour successor undoubtedly will be, and they’ll have the power to enforce woke language policing. It is conceivable that if Lisa Nandy were to become the culture minister she would rule that saying “a woman is an adult female human” is harmful to trans-women.
Tory backbenchers shouldn’t be lining up to crown the likes of Nick Clegg the king of what we can say online with the ability to de-platform Mumsnet. This Bill is bad law and needs to be re-thought.
Priti Patel and Nadine Dorries have reportedly written to the Cabinet arguing that sweeping new powers are required to force internet companies to monitor for “legal but harmful” user content, something that is dangerously vague and intrusive.
Matthew Lesh, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, is right when he says
“The Online Safety Bill is going from bad to worse. The Home Office demand for social media companies to proactively monitor legal speech is a recipe for censorship on an industrial scale. It will mean that Meta (Facebook) and Google will be required to read private messages between consenting adults. This is deeply disturbing and will result in a less safe and free internet. The state should not be requiring monitoring and the removal of legal speech. These duties will also impose huge costs on start-ups and smaller companies, deterring tech investment and solidifying Big Tech dominance.”
During the pandemic Big Tech has run riot stifling legitimate debate on the grounds of public health concerns, if this continues and spreads into general censorship it will be disastrous. The problem is politicians generally are so fed up with the abuse they get on social media they are angry enough to overturn the widely accepted free speech norms of the free world for a more authoritarian approach.
Everyone agrees monitoring for illegal content like child sexual exploitation is a desirable priority. Monitoring legal content that might vaguely be harmful is entirely different and the Home Office is wrong to deliberately conflate the issues. We would be on a slippery slope to laws protecting the “dignity of the state” and stifling criticism of politicians. In many authoritarian countries insulting government officials is an offence. It is not unimaginable that in the near future Jolyon Maugham would be organising a fundraiser seeking to bring a case against Guido for “harming” Prime Minister Starmer if this legislation goes through…