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…
Matt Hancock has written to IPSO demanding they protect his children by stopping the publishing of the picture of him and Gina Coladangelo snogging in his Ministerial office:
I am writing to ask your help to protect my children, following widespread media coverage of my personal life in the last few months.
Now, more than three months after my resignation as Secretary of State, there is no longer any public interest whatsoever in any publication about my private life, or the private life of my partner Gina Coladangelo or either of our families. While a perfectly reasonable case could have been made while I was in Government, there is clearly now no public interest case for invasion of our privacy. I am grateful to the many publications that no longer carry such inappropriate material.
Over the past two days pictures have been published of Gina and I on a private visit abroad. There was no public interest case in doing so. We have also been approached by members of the press relating to our private lives.
Specifically, there is no public interest justification for continued publication of the photograph and video first published that led to my resignation. The continued publication of this picture and video is causing significant harm to our children.
I would therefore request that all media outlets:
– cease publication of any material relating to our private lives, whether photographic or written
– cease publication of the past photograph and video
None of the parties with any knowledge of our private lives will be commenting to the media on these matters in the foreseeable future.
I would be grateful if you could alert IPSO members to our very clear position on this matter, and reinforce the importance of your members’ adherence to the Editors’ Code.
That horse has bolted through the office doorway. As for the video of Matt and Gina in Split which was circulating widely on social media after a holidaying Briton spotted them and whipped their smartphone out, asking IPSO to intervene would not make any difference. More importantly, as Matt told parliament after the Leveson Inquiry, when he was the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport:
“Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to our freedom as a nation.”
The harm done to his children was, as he must know in his heart, a consequence of his own actions. The pictorial reminder disappearing from the papers won’t change that…
Before getting sympathetic coverage in the Evening Standard this afternoon, Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC instructed lawyers Schillings to bully the media into not naming her. She cited the Cliff Richard case to invoke a supposed right-to-privacy in an attempt to keep her name out of the story. Sabben-Clare had let her dog off its leash and it attacked and mauled the ten-month old seal pup that had become known as “Freddie Mercury” for its entertaining nature. The seal was put down as a result of its injuries.
Rebecca Sabbren-Clare set legal dogs Schillings on the press yesterday afternoon to try and cover-up her name, when that didn’t work after the Mail Online named her, Rebecca Sabben-Clare switched tactics and cooperated with a soft-soap PR puff piece telling the Standard:
I am heartbroken by this terrible accident. As an animal lover, I fully understand the dismay that has been expressed. I apologise unreservedly for what happened. In hindsight I wish, of course, that the dog had been on a lead but at the time that did not seem necessary.
Yet another example of the rich and powerful trying it on with lawyers to muzzle the press. Shame Rebecca Sabben-Clare QC didn’t muzzle her dog. Didn’t work and Schillings have lost again…