Tag Archives: Google

How do you scrap a tax hike on your digital services business? Give Labour £16,000?

Google: facing an increase in the UK’s digitial services tax from 2% to 10%, this firm and others gave Labour shadow ministers gifts worth £16,000 and it was subsequently cancelled. The increased would have brought £3 billion into the UK Treasury.

Is Keir Starmer’s Labour as bent as a figure-eight? Judge for yourself with this tale of shadow ministers scrapping plans for a 10 per cent digital services tax after receiving £16,000 in gifts from Google and other companies in the sector.

The tax hike would have brought £3bn to the Treasury, providing an opportunity to cut taxes on struggling small businesses – but it seems £16,000 for people including shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds was enough to put a stop to this valuable change:

Information from Open Democracy says Reynolds was talking about the tax increase right up until he took a £3,377 package for two to attend Glastonbury as a guest of YouTube, which is owned by Google. The day after, reports emerged that he had ditched the plan.

It was not the only time senior figures in Starmer’s team accepted luxury gifts from Google in the months before the party’s U-turn. Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell’s political adviser, Labour’s executive director of policy, and the party’s head of domestic policy all accepted tickets and transport to, and ‘hospitality’ at, the Brit Awards in February from the digital giant. Powell’s register of interests estimates that the adviser’s ticket was worth £1,170.

Starmer’s political director also accepted transport to and ‘hospitality’ ahead of the event from Google, though his ticket, along with that of Starmer’s private secretary, was covered by Universal Music.

Starmer had accepted a £380 dinner from Google for him and one staff member during the World Economic Forum in January.

In total, openDemocracy estimates that Labour shadow cabinet members and their staff accepted luxury gifts from Google worth nearly £10,000 over the months before they announced their policy U-turn.

And that’s just Google. The estimate of £16,000 in total may, in fact, be low.

Take a look at the full Open Democracy article (link below). The attached comment from ‘Tory Fibs’ is also useful because it crystallises the problem with Labour – or any political organisation – taking money or gifts-in-kind from businesses facing tax increases or legislative regulation:

My perception is certainly that Labour cannot be trusted to implement the right policies for the UK because its representatives are corruptible with cheap bribes.

And no – it doesn’t matter whether Jonathan Reynolds was otherwise influenced to cancel the policy.

It seems as though he shut down a £3 billion plan to help small businesses because a digital giant gave him tickets for Glasto.

And it seems as though the total cost to the digital services industry of shutting down this £3 billion plan was a mere £16,000. That’s pocket money to these people.

Until Labour – and all the other political parties – stop accepting these gifts from people and organisations their decisions may affect, they can never be trusted.


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Humiliation for Hancock as Apple denies talking with Tories over contact tracing app

Matt Hancock: he has a lot of bare-faced cheek.

How did Matt Hancock think he would get away with this one?

It seems he has tried to hide the failure of the Tory government’s attempt to create a Covid-19 contact tracing app for mobile phones by saying the government was merging its app with one already created by Apple and Google.

Apple has said it is unaware of any such agreement and the government has not held any discussions with the firm.

In other words: Hancock was lying.

That’s the only logical conclusion. Right?

Apple says it did not know the UK was working on a “hybrid” version of the NHS coronavirus contact-tracing app using tech it developed with Google.

The firm took the unusual step of saying it was also unaware of an issue regarding distance-measuring, which was flagged by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in Thursday’s daily briefing.

“We’ve agreed to join forces with Google and Apple, to bring the best bits of both systems together,” Mr Hancock said.

However, Apple said: “We don’t know what they mean by this hybrid model. They haven’t spoken to us about it.”

Apple said it was “difficult to understand” the claims.

Downing Street said the government had “worked closely with Apple and Google”.

In tests carried out in the UK, there were occasions when software tools developed by Apple and Google could not differentiate between a phone in a user’s pocket 1m (3.3ft) away and a phone in a user’s hand 3m (9.8ft) away.

During the briefing, Mr Hancock said: “Measuring distance is clearly mission critical to any contact-tracing app.”

However, speaking to the Times, Apple said: “It is difficult to understand what these claims are as they haven’t spoken to us.”

It gets worse. The government doubled down on its claim, with disastrous consequences:

On Friday, the Department of Health said the NHS’s digital innovation unit had indeed discussed its ambitions with Apple.

A Downing Street spokesman said the government continued to work closely with both Apple and Google on the app, and had done so since development began.

“We’ve agreed with them to take forward our work on estimating distance through the app that we’ve developed and work to incorporate that into their app,” he said.

Apple and Google have not created an app.

It’s not irredeemable for the Tories.

Apple is a commercial firm and will undoubtedly be happy to enter a commercial agreement with the UK government to create the track-and-trace system the Tories want.

The big question is whether this new system will have the facility to download people’s private information and make it available to other commercial operators, in the way the Tories’ – failed – app did.

Source: Apple ‘not told’ about UK’s latest app plans – BBC News

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Trump trade war threat over tax shows the drawbacks of globalisation

A family at war? They may look and act the same, but that doesn’t mean Donald Trump won’t attack Boris Johnson if he feels like it [Composite: Laura Tisdale/Twitter].

This is awkward, with Boris Johnson desperate to get a trade deal between the UK and the USA.

Donald Trump is threatening reprisals if Johnson goes ahead with a plan to tax US tech corporations like Google and Facebook on profits they make from UK customers.

This Writer understands that it is possible to prevent foreign tech companies from operating in the UK – don’t China and North Korea do this?

But if the UK did this, then the US government could impose crippling sanctions on this country.

The simple fact is that Trump has Johnson over a barrel.

And where Trump goes, others will follow. The loss to the UK’s tax take must be staggering.

And it’s all in line with Conservative economic policy.

Ever since Thatcher, Tories have demanded that businesses across the world must be able to operate across the world if they can, but must be allowed to operate from the country of their choice.

And that’s where they are taxed.

I suppose the answer was to demand that these multinationals set up subsidiaries in the countries where they operated. But wasn’t that the situation before Thatcherism?

It seems the Tories deliberately harmed the UK economy with this policy.

Can anybody explain the thinking that supported this economic disaster?

Source: Trump administration threatens trade war with UK over digital tax plan | The Independent

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Labour would stop tax avoidance – Tories are encouraging it

[Image: Rui Vieira/PA].


John McDonnell has the right idea.

John McDonnell says Labour would hire hundreds more tax inspectors to claw £36 billion a year back from avoidance.

And he believes that figure could go even higher, taking into account schemes used by firms such as Apple, Starbucks, Amazon and Google to beat tax rules.

These international businesses lawfully use complex structures to shift taxable income from the UK to other overseas operations.

HMRC is replacing 170 offices across the UK with 13 larger regional centres to save £83million.

The shake-up means that 5,000 staff unable to relocate are expected to be lost.

Source: Labour to hire army of tax inspectors to claw £36BILLION a year back from dodgers


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If right-wing hate propagandists are manipulating the Internet, how do we stop them?

Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].

Google has ‘a terrible problem’ with its search algorithm being manipulated by the far right, said data scientist Cathy O’Neil [Image: Yui Mok/PA].

Bizarrely, this manipulation by right-wing hate-propagandists could have a beneficial effect – Google may end up employing human editors to ensure the company evades any… legal entanglements.

But the issue of fake news is huge. Tom Watson may have made a fool of himself, attacking The Canary for no very good reason, but there is a serious point here.

If right-wing manipulators are spreading disinformation, they are to be countered – or people will make political decisions based on this nonsense and who knows where we’ll end up?

The article states that Jonathan Albright, assistant professor of communications at Elon University, North Carolina, said right wing websites had launched a new “information war”, and were winning.

His research has shown that fake news and information is a far bigger structural problem than had been previously realised. He has mapped a “vast satellite system that is encroaching on the mainstream news system”.

Websites propagating extreme right wing propaganda have thrown out thousands of hyperlinks that connect to each other and to mainstream news sources, such as YouTube and Facebook, and he says they “are growing in strength and influence every day”.

How do we fight this?

Google must urgently review its search ranking system because of “compelling” evidence that it is being “manipulated and controlled” by rightwing propagandists, leading academics have said, after the Observer reported that hate sites are now dominating searches on Muslims, Jews, Hitler and women.
Cathy O’Neil, a data scientist and the author of Weapons on Math Destruction, said that unless Google acknowledged responsibility for the problem, it would be a “co-conspirator” with the propagandists. “This is the end for Google pretending to be a neutral platform,” she said. “It clearly has a terrible problem here and it has to own and acknowledge that.

“It simply can’t go on pretending that it has no editorial responsibilities when it is delivering these kinds of results. It is simply not defensible for it go on claiming ‘plausible deniability’. It has clearly become a conduit for rightwing hate sites and it must urgently take action.”

Google had removed the lines suggesting that Jews and black people are evil and that blacks “commit more crimes”, but it is still suggesting Muslims were “bad” and that Islam “should be destroyed”. While Facebook has faced criticism in the wake of revelations about how the site had become a conduit for fake news, the problem facing Google is potentially even more intractable.

Source: Google ‘must review its search rankings because of rightwing manipulation’ | Technology | The Guardian

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Could Joel Dommett’s Skype sex confession halt rise in blackmail-related suicides over ‘sextortion’?

Joel Dommett admitted he had been made to look like a turkey for following his heart, not his head [Image: ITV].

Joel Dommett admitted he had been made to look like a turkey for following his heart, not his head [Image: ITV].

The revelation that online ‘sextortion’ is on the rise reminds me very much of comedian Joel Dommett’s story about being induced into cybersex on Skype.

He revealed that he had been “catfished” – lured into a relationship by someone who had adopted a fictional online persona – during the current series of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, on ITV1.

He was encouraged into carrying out certain private activities on a Skype call with this imposter, who then posted it on the Internet immediately before the comedian went into the jungle.

As a result of his confession, Google searches for the clip skyrocketed – but at least Mr Dommett had taken possession of the incident. By admitting what had happened, and his own stupidity in participating, he had ensured that the villain could not blackmail him.

As he admits, though, it’s still a very stupid thing to do.

Perhaps there should be a new strand of sex education in school – teaching youngsters the common-sense fact that sexting someone you’ve never met is extremely silly and may lead to similar situations.

They could use Mr Dommett’s confession in the lessons. Would that – at least partially – cut down on these incidents and their tragic consequences?

Four men killed themselves in the last year after being blackmailed as part of an increasing cyber “sextortion” racket.

International gangs of organised criminals are targeting more and more young men by luring them into potentially compromising positions, the National Crime Agency said.

The number of people reporting financially-motivated cyber enabled blackmails more than doubled from 385 in 2015 to 864 up to November 2016.

This number has risen from nine in 2011.

Sextortion is a form of blackmail where criminals use fake identities to befriend victims online – using websites such as Facebook, Skype or Linkedin – before persuading them to perform sexual acts in front of their webcam.

Source: Sextortion: Rise in blackmail-related suicides over sexual images shared online | The Independent

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Apple raises concerns over UK’s draft surveillance bill


The Conservative Party’s plan to monitor your every communication has been dealt another body-blow.

It seems the major software and social media corporations have pointed out that any UK legislation must not conflict with the laws of other nations – nations that are almost certain to have less restrictive laws than are planned by Theresa May’s thought police.

Apple has raised concerns about the UK’s draft Investigatory Powers Bill.

It focuses on three issues: encryption, the possibility of having to hack its own products, and the precedent it would set by agreeing to comply with UK-issued warrants.

The BBC has also learned that Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Yahoo and Twitter have also filed their own responses to the committee, which will publish the details in due course.

None of the companies have disclosed what they have said.

However, a spokesman for Microsoft commented: “The legislation must avoid conflicts with the laws of other nations and contribute to a system where like-minded governments work together, not in competition, to keep people more secure. We appreciate the government’s willingness to engage in an open debate and will continue to advocate for a system that is workable on a global basis.”

The Home Secretary Theresa May said in November that the new law was needed to fight crime and terror.

Source: Apple raises concerns over UK’s draft surveillance bill – BBC News

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SNP policy on tax havens: Turn Scotland into one

150207corporationtax

The SNP would turn Scotland into a tax haven with a policy similar to that of the Conservative Party, according to the best evidence available on the day after Labour announced it would crack down on tax avoidance.

The Courier stated in August last year: “SNP proposals to cut corporation tax could turn an independent Scotland into a tax haven for multinational companies such as Google and Microsoft, according to Labour’s finance spokesman.

“[Iain] Gray told [an] audience of small business owners: “If you deliberately set your corporation tax, not at what you think is right, but less than the country next door to you, what you’re doing is you’re trying to create yourself as a tax haven.”

But Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney said the proposed cut in corporation tax would make Scotland a more competitive place to do business and create an incentive for growth, according to the article.

Of course, cutting Corporation Tax in order to get businesses to base themselves in your country is now a well-known phenomenon. The Irish republic did it – and what happened? According to Mr Gray: “Google and Microsoft set up in Ireland, move their money through Ireland but don’t employ people there; they simply use it as a conduit in order to pay less tax.”

George Osborne has tried a similar policy UK-wide, cutting Corporation tax by 25 per cent during the course of the Coalition Parliament. The result has been a drop in Treasury tax receipts.

So what can be said about SNP policy, on the day after Labour announced it would crack down on tax havens?

Only that they would copy the Tories – and try to turn Scotland into one.

(Or are we about to hear an announcement?)

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Coalition supporter suggests sanctioned benefit claimant deserved death

This woman was sanctioned because she told work programme providers she was 23 weeks pregnant. Does she deserve to die as a result of that decision?

This woman is not the subject of this article. However, she was sanctioned because she told work programme providers she was 23 weeks pregnant. Does she deserve to die as a result of that decision?

What follows will be shocking to some of you. Outrageous. This writer would find it questionable if it was not.

It relates to yesterday’s (December 16) article, Benefit deaths: Man was crushed to death by refuse lorry while scavenging in bins, and in particular to a response – not from any official source, but from a reader.

The story was about a man who had been sanctioned off of his benefit and had to survive without any money for 17 weeks. He was reduced to scavenging in bins for leftovers or out-of-date food, and it was while he was doing this that a rubbish-compacting lorry arrived, picked him up and crushed him to death.

Here’s the response from one Nicholas Blanch on Google+: “I’m going to ask you why he was sanctioned in the first place, because if it was for something he had no control over then that was Wrong with a capital W, worth wholeheartedly condemning, and the government should bear the full weight of responsibility for the end of this man’s life and the corresponding loss to all of us of whatever this man might have contributed directly or indirectly to our lives.

“If, however, the sanction came about through that man’s actions or lack thereof then the responsibility for his situation and its deadly consequence lies with him.”

Take a moment to let that sink in.

In effect, this person conferred the death sentence on any benefit recipient who has been sanctioned by Job Centre Plus according to current DWP rules. Anything that happens to them as a result – including death – is their fault, in his opinion.

Hopefully the sceptics who refused to believe the Chequebook Euthanasia article – because they couldn’t accept that people think in such ways – are hastily reconsidering their position.

What he’s saying is so appalling that he deserves to be named and shamed on this blog.

Mr Blanch continues: “To draw an analogy, if a person gets into a car crash and dies, you want to know the cause of the accident before you assign the blame over the death. You don’t just assume that the problem was the speed limit and demand that it be lowered to make the road safer.”

Okay, let’s look at some real sanctions that have been applied by Job Centre Plus staff – these are from a Vox Political article but there are many more listed on the web.

“You apply for three jobs one week and three jobs the following Sunday and Monday. Because the job centre week starts on a Tuesday it treats this as applying for six jobs in one week and none the following week. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks for failing to apply for three jobs each week.” Does that justify a man’s death?

“You have a job interview which overruns so you arrive at your job centre appointment nine minutes late. You get sanctioned for a month.” Would this have you reaching for the black cap and calling the executioner?

“Your job centre advisor suggests a job. When you go online to apply it says the job has ‘expired’ so you don’t apply. You are sanctioned for 13 weeks.” The death sentence?

“You are on a workfare placement and your job centre appointment comes round. The job centre tells you to sign on then go to your placement – which you do. The placement reports you for being late and you get sanctioned for three months.” And if you die, is that fine?

You apply for all the jobs you can physically attend, but the Job Centre says you should have applied for those that are impossible to get to and from. Should you die for that omission? Alternatively, should you die for failing to attend any job interviews at the locations it is impossible for you to physically attend?

Mr Blanch gets worse: “Also, if any party wants to influence my vote away from the Coalition [note: he supports the Coalition Government, made up of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties] on the strength of this issue, then I want to know what their alternative plans are to ensure that my tax money goes only to people that are on benefits because that’s where they have to be rather than where they choose to be.”

Seriously, Mr B, do you think anyone would choose to be stuck in a system where an official can sign a warrant for you to starve to death with the stroke of a pen?

“As poor as this policy is, and as grim as the side-effects are, at least this Coalition Government took steps to try to make sure that all of my tax money goes to that majority of people that are in honest need so that there was a chance that the welfare budget might have been enough for them to have a shot at something approaching decency and dignity in their quality of life rather than forcing them to make the choice to eat or to heat due to the fact that some of my money is wasted on those fortunately few but sadly still-present people who have decided that working the system is preferable to working a job.”

This convoluted and confused sentence takes a bit of unravelling.

Firstly: “This Coalition Government took steps to try to make sure that all of my tax money goes to that majority of people that are in honest need.” No it did not. If you’re talking about all of your tax money, what about the huge amount that goes to the City of London – £103.4 billion a year, despite the fact that there is no need for any subsidy at all? What about the millions that go to work capability assessors and work programme companies, despite the fact that they make no material contribution to a claimant’s needs (work capability assessments may be carried out just as efficiently by a claimant’s doctors, and it has been calculated that claimants are statistically more likely to get a job if they do not take part in the work programme than if they do).

“The welfare budget might have been enough for them to have a shot at something approaching decency and dignity in their quality of life.” No, it would not. The Coalition Government’s benefits squeeze is nothing to do with the number of claimants; it is about ensuring that the unemployed cannot enjoy a decent, dignified quality of life. The aim is to make them desperate for any job, in order to keep wages down. Employers can argue that they don’t need to give anyone a raise because “there are hundreds more out there who’ll do this job for less than you”.

“Some of my money is wasted on those fortunately few but sadly still-present people who have decided that working the system is preferable to working a job.” Such people comprise roughly 0.7 per cent of benefit claimants – a figure that has not changed since before the Coalition Government came into office, no matter what measures Iain Duncan Smith has forced on them. It is such a small proportion of the claimant population that any action by the Coalition Government to tackle it is hugely disproportionate to the threat it represents – initiatives to stop the fraud are more harmful than the fraud itself.

All of this information is freely available to anybody with a modicum of curiosity – you only have to go and look.

That is why Nicholas Blanch’s comment is not only shocking and outrageous; it is also disgracefully ignorant.

So no, Mr Blanch, there is no point in seeking to influence your vote away from the Coalition parties.

With attitudes like yours, nobody else would want it.

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Labour is following the same plan as England’s football team – to failure

Mock sympathy: This is the sort of treatment Ed Miliband can expect from David Cameron if he keeps following policies that are created by the Tory media rather than the needs of the British people.

Mock sympathy: This is the sort of treatment Ed Miliband can expect from David Cameron if he keeps following policies that are created by the Tory media rather than the needs of the British people.

Labour could be heading for defeat next year, after it set out new policies that have the same chance of success as England’s plan for the 2014 World Cup.

The party put its weight behind a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) that left the public cold. If Labour does not change direction, it seems likely the party will not win the votes it needs to get into office next year – unless its rivals make serious mistakes.

It is a situation almost exactly like that of the England football team.

All right, it’s not a perfect parallel. England got into this fix because it was outplayed by teams with ambitious and flamboyant star players – Balotelli for Italy and Suarez for Uruguay. Labour doesn’t have that problem as the closest equivalent in politics is Nigel Farage.

But, like England, Labour seems unable to defend itself against even rudimentary attacks – partly because leaders have painted themselves into a corner (marked ‘pro-austerity’) and partly because they simply refuse to use the logical arguments. Does anybody remember what a relief it was when, after years of silence in response to Tory claims that Labour caused the financial collapse, Peter Hain finally told Owen Paterson, on the BBC’s Any Questions, “It was the banks that destroyed the economy, not the Labour government – it was the international banking system!”

And where is Mr Hain now? He’s retiring at the next election. The only Labour player who was man enough to fend off this blatantly unreasonable Tory attack and he’s being taken off the field.

Meanwhile, Labour’s leaders continue to make schoolboy mistakes that create the opportunity for the other side to score. Ed Miliband’s publicity-seeking pose with The Sun was a spectacular example; yesterday’s IPPR report was a more subtle one.

The lack of ambition is staggering; it seems that, after four years, the Miliband camp still hasn’t understood that copying Tory austerity will scare voters away. Committing to Tory-imposed constraints that require any new idea to be covered by a cut or a tax increase will just increase the exodus – Labour needs to be ambitious.

Everybody knows now that austerity is nonsense. It’s an excuse to drive money into the hands of those who have too much of it already. After four years of it, we are told that this government is on course to put five million British children in poverty by 2020. Food bank use is at its highest ever. The number of people claiming in-work benefits is at its highest ever because employers refuse to pay a living wage and expect the taxpayer to subsidise them instead; by the time of the 2015 election, working families will be around £2,000 per year worse off than they were in 2010.

You are worse-off under the Tory Coalition. You are worse-off under austerity.

Meanwhile, business bosses and shareholders have been having a spectacularly good time, with incomes skyrocketing. There’s no austerity for the One Per Cent!

Indeed, income inequality has increased hugely to place the UK seventh on the international table, behind the USA (fourth) and Chile (first) – and we all know that Tory neoliberals are huge fans of the systems in those two countries.

incomeinequality

What are the wealthy doing with all the money they have parasitised from the rest of us?

Well, they’re not using it to pay their taxes, that’s for sure!

One of the main plans put forward in Labour’s IPPR report was to save money by means-testing benefits for 100,000 young people – saving £65 million. That’s a pittance compared to the £600 million in taxes that is being withheld by Google, Amazon and Apple, according to an infographic that’s currently doing the rounds.

140620taxcheatinfographic#

Labour is very quiet about that – copying the Tory attitude of diverting people with stories about welfare abuses because Miliband’s know-nothing advisors think being “hard on benefits” is popular with the public, who don’t like “scroungers”.

They’re not intelligent enough to understand that this attitude has been carefully nurtured in the public consciousness by a right-wing, Tory-controlled media. It has nothing to do with reality, in which only a tiny minority of people are in fact defrauding the taxpayer out of benefit money. Lord Fraud – sorry, Freud – was taken to task for this only days ago.

It seems that – like England’s football team – the Labour Party has been off chasing a fantasy. Austerity and the persecution of people on benefits (most of whom are entirely deserving of them, plus massive amounts of compensation for the despicable way they have been treated for the past few years) are Conservative-created blind alleys. In politics, you don’t oppose anybody by copying them.

If Labour concentrated on the real causes of Britain’s problems, the party might have a hope of success.

Otherwise, like the England team, Labour will have to be content with hoping that the Tories make a big mistake.

And, like the England team, they are most likely to learn that this is not good enough.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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