Tag Archives: online

Grade confirmed as Ofcom chair despite MPs’ warning about lack of knowledge

Not ideal: Lord Michael Grade’s understanding of the social media comes from his own children – he doesn’t use it himself. And remember, this is a man who failed to realise Jimmy Savile was committing many terrible crimes, while an executive at the BBC.

Former BBC chair and Channel 4 boss Lord Michael Grade has been confirmed as the new chair of Ofcom, despite apparent glaring gaps in his knowledge of the social media and online safety.

This is important because Ofcom will be responsible for policing online safety after the new Bill on that subject becomes law.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said Grade had been appointed by the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, to the £142,500-a-year role for four years from 1 May.

This was despite concerns raised by the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that it was concerned by Lord Grade’s admission this week that he does not use social media but is aware of how it works thanks to his children:

“His clear lack of depth when talking about social media and online safety gives us concerns,” said the committee in a report published on Friday, hours before the government confirmed his appointment.

“He appears to understand the importance of Ofcom’s new role in regulating the online space. It would be difficult to find a candidate with deep experience across the whole of Ofcom’s remit, and we hope that he will be well supported with the necessary advice to fulfil his role as chair.”

The committee, which did not have the power to block Grade’s appointment, was scathing about the DCMS hiring process… Conservative chair Julian Knight said: “This shambles of a process gives us great concern about the department’s ability to run effective and impartial public appointment competitions.”

In a statement issued after Grade’s confirmation, Knight said the rapid appointment of Grade and that of Orlando Fraser as chair of the Charity Commission on Friday showed the appointments process was “broken”. “The fact that the DCMS department has taken only a matter of hours to put aside our concerns highlights once again that there are serious underlying issues at play here,” he said.

The concerns about Grade’s ability to tackle online safety may be well-founded.

Bear in mind this comment on his appointment, from a reader on Facebook:

“What, the guy who let [Jimmy] Savile run riot when running [the] BBC? *That* Michael Grade?

Source: Michael Grade confirmed as Ofcom chair despite MPs’ warning | Ofcom | The Guardian

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Have you experienced – and reported – #onlineabuse? If so, the #VictimsCommissioner wants your views

Online abuse: have you been a victim? If so, take part in the survey before the Online Harms Bill is passed into law.

The Victims Commissioner for England and Wales has launched a survey of online abuse, in advance of the Tory government’s new Online Safety legislation.

The Commissioner, Dame Vera Baird, acts independently of the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to champion the rights of victims (as a group; she is not able to represent individuals) and make sure they are treated fairly and correctly by the criminal justice system.

She has issued the following appeal for information:

“You may be aware that the government is currently introducing a bill before parliament on online harms; the Online Safety Bill.

“The Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales would like to hear about your experience of online abuse and, if relevant, your experience of reporting this abuse.

“We would also like to hear from you if you did not report the abuse, and the reasons for this decision.

“We will analyse the information you provide and publish a report on it, which we hope will add victims’ voices to the debate.

“We would like to hear from anyone who has experienced the following types of abuse, in particular: intimate image abuse, online harassment and stalking, coercive behaviour, cyberbullying and trolling and any form of online hate.

“You will be anonymous (not able to be identified) in our reporting, whether or not you choose to give us your contact details at the end of this set of questions.

“We are keen to hear from everyone who wants to complete this survey, including parents or carers of children who have been a victim.

“If you support someone who has been a victim who would like to respond but can’t do so because of language, age, lack of internet access or other barrier, you are welcome to fill in the survey with them (or in the case of children, for them). Alternatively, you can contact us at [email protected] if you would like to request the survey in a different format. At the end of the survey we ask a question about these barriers. Your answers will help us improve future surveys.

“We will be publishing the findings. The survey is anonymous, but at the end we ask if you would be willing to give an email address to be contacted for future research by the Victims’ Commissioner e.g. an interview.

“If you have any questions, please get in touch: [email protected]

This Writer will be getting in touch as I’ve had a huge amount of abuse and the response when I’ve reported it has been rubbish. How about you?

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Backlash against ‘subjective’ Online Harms Bill may harm policing of social media trolls

Who would have thought the Online Harms Bill could reverse the roles of the aggressor and the victim in social media abuse?

A plan to base prosecution of online trolls on subjective judgements by lawyers could derail a perfectly good law.

The Times has reported on changes to the planned Online Harms Act:

Trolls could face two years in prison for sending messages or posting content that causes psychological harm under legislation targeting online hate.

Ministers will overhaul communication laws by creating new offences in the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, the flagship legislation to combat abuse and hatred on the internet.

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport has accepted recommendations from the Law Commission for crimes to be based on “likely psychological harm”.

The proposed law change will shift the focus on to the “harmful effect” of a message rather than if it contains “indecent” or “grossly offensive” content, which is the present basis for assessing its criminality.

A new offence of “threatening communications” will target messages and social media posts that contain threats of serious harm.

The sticking-point is the issue of “likely psychological harm”. Nothing else in the article is new – and This Writer has already supported much of what is planned.

I can’t support a clause that allows conviction based on nothing but wishful thinking.

How would a lawyer gauge “likely psychological harm”? Would they seek reports from medical experts? Would they examine the effect of the messages on their victim? Or would they just take the word of a social media user who may be a good actor with their own axe to grind?

It’s too subjective; it’s wide open to abuse.

The benchmark for criminal prosecution must always be harm that a person has definitely suffered – that can be proved by showing evidence. It can’t be based on hearsay or the wild claims of someone who makes a profession out of being offended.

So, for instance, the teenage girl in Rachel Riley’s libel case against me had genuine anxiety issues that, it could be argued, had been worsened by the dogpiling she suffered as a result of her Twitter encounters with Riley; she was terrified of leaving her home alone for a period of months afterwards.

If this law had been in force at the time – without the subjective element – I am satisfied that it would have been possible to show the harm that had been done.

The fear with the new measure is that it will allow people with a political axe to grind – most probably right-wingers, as usual – to victimise others by claiming psychological injury from social media posts that simply engage in robust debate.

See what I mean?

And note how The Times misrepresented the story; Twitter ‘pile-ons’ (more properly known as dogpiles) were already going to be criminalised before the subjective element was added in.

We all got the point:

Even a former Conservative chairman and Brexit minister has come out against this offence to justice: David Davis.

According to Sky News:

Mr Davis criticised the bill as “a good example of the best of intentions leading to the worst of outcomes” and warned that it was “a censor’s charter” as a result.

He warned that as the law is backed up by fines potentially stretching into billions of pounds for companies that fail to tackle this content, they will err on the side of caution.

“You can be sure that in any area of controversy – political issues, culture wars, or even COVID science – there will be plenty of people complaining and demanding a post be taken down.

“And with Silicon Valley mega corporations as arbiters of the truth, anything that appears online and can be characterised by someone as misinformation could be censored.

“The chilling effect on free speech will be terrible,” he added.

Still, being British, we can laugh at it:

We laugh because it’s funny, and we laugh because it’s probably true. It shows how low the UK government has fallen.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Patel lies about David Amess as she demands removal of social media anonymity

Hate: it was naked on Priti Patel’s face during her Tory conference speech, yet she talks about closing anonymous social media accounts to end it. She speaks with a forked tongue.

The hypocrisy is bald and blatant:

In fact, we know who wants to remove social media anonymity – it’s Priti Patel. But government sources of stories to news media would keep their anonymity, meaning huge opportunities to mislead the public will still be available to them. Remember the false claim that three Labour MPs were going to defect to the Conservatives during conference season?

Patel made her claim during an interview on Sky News, in response to the stabbing of David Amess.

She said there had been a “coarsening” of the public debate (without acknowledging the role that recent Tory governments have played in it) and added:

We can’t carry on like this. I spend too much time with communities who have been under attack, basically who have had all sorts of postings online and it is a struggle to get those posts taken down.

We want to make some big changes on that.

And she said:

This is about wider public discourse and I would also go as far to say social media, anonymity on social media, where we’re members of parliament are subjects of some of the most cruel comments attacks.

And they are relentless, many of them are relentless.

My colleagues go through just some of the most appalling attacks I’ve seen online and I have as well.

Off the top of my head, This Writer doesn’t recall Patel ever showing any concern about the enormous volume of hate sent to Diane Abbott on a regular basis. But then, Ms Abbott is a black female Labour MP and not a white male Tory knight – so it seems other rules apply.

And there’s an elephant in this room. Why is Patel suggesting a crackdown on anonymous social media accounts when the suspect in the Amess murder, Ali Harbi Ali, has not used one?

According to a YouGov poll, a majority of people think there should be curbs on anonymity…

… and This Writer is not a fan of unmonitored anonymity, having been a victim of online hate myself.

But I would not seek to ban online anonymity. I would suggest that those who wanted to be anonymous registered for it, and if social media platforms received verifiable complaints about their activities – in other words, if they were caught abusing others, that privilege may be removed.

The reason for this should be clear to everybody but if it isn’t, read the following:

And of course removing online anonymity will only increase the imbalance between the privileged and the rest of us:

Again: I have certainly been a victim of online abuse organised by people on Twitter with blue ticks next to their name. I am not aware of any instance when that organisation has acted on complaints against these “celebrities”.

So it seems that, rather than acting to end online abuse, Ms Patel is trying to increase the ability of the rich and privileged to cause such abuse, while ending any chance for ordinary people to defend themselves.

And let’s not forget that this is coming from the minister who wants to “turn back the boats” of refugees coming to the UK, exposing children to the possibility of drowning at sea, while granting her employees who cause such deaths immunity from prosecution:

Hate – whether online or in real life – has always been a tool of the Tories and Patel’s words stand on their heads. She may say she wants to shut it down but in fact it seems clear that she wants to increase it.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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What’s happening? New online news show highlights grassroots activism to improve lives

This is interesting – and may work if it gets a chance:

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Online abuse of women in politics is getting worse, says Williams. But relief is on the way

Kirsty Williams, shortly after she had been made the Welsh cabinet secretary for Education.

A long, long time ago, when This Writer was still working at the Brecon and Radnor Express (I think), Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams was likened to toilet paper.

Her response was to say that if any comparison could be made, she would be Double Velvet. Many people thought it amusing at the time.

Now it seems that was just a mild example of the kind of abuse she received in a political career that has lasted around 20 years, and that she says has become worse because of the social media.

I’ve had my own differences with Ms Williams (I won’t deny it); politically I am traditional Labour and there is a lot of space between my views and hers. But we co-operated on the campaign for the general election voting system to be changed to proportional representation before the referendum – and wouldn’t the UK be a much better place if we had succeeded?

And she was an excellent constituency AM.

So I am saddened to learn that she – along with her husband and children – has been forced to deal with this.

I am far more willing to believe her than some of the representatives of my own party, who – in my opinion – went out of their way to stir up reactions and then squealed when people responded aggressively to their own unacceptable behaviour.

One of the examples in the BBC article is when then-Welsh Assembly Member Neil Hamilton referred to her and Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood as “political concubines”. He got away with it after claiming he had not intended to upset anybody.

But that is deliberately provocative language! How did he think people were going to react?

And when people see those who are elected to high office acting in such a way, they think it is permissible to do the same.

We have a shocking example of this squatting in 10 Downing Street pretending to be prime minister at the moment, having referred to gay people as “tank-topped bum boys”, Muslim women as “letterboxes”, black people as having “watermelon smiles”… the list of his offences is endless.

But it is possible that some relief is on the horizon, with the forthcoming Online Harms Bill that will bring in prison sentences for the behaviour Ms Williams identifies.

She says she would not discourage her three daughters from entering politics but would be worried for them, having to cope with the kind of abuse she has received.

I hope the new law – if it doesn’t have its teeth pulled by some of the offenders in Westminster – will make the environment safer, for all the rest of us and for them.

Even if I don’t approve of the political party they may choose to represent.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Online Harms Bill could be Johnson government’s only USEFUL new law

Social media trolls could be neutered by incoming Online Harms legislation by the Tory government. It could be the most useful thing Boris Johnson ever does.

I’m not just publishing the above headline because, if the Online Harms Bill had been an active law in 2019, Rachel Riley’s followers – and allegedly Riley herself – would have been prevented from abusing a teenage girl with mental health issues who supported Jeremy Corbyn.

There are some very good ideas in here, including a demand that political content must be policed impartially, which is startling.

Consider:

All social media sites, websites, apps and other services hosting user-generated content or allowing people to talk to others online will have a duty of care towards their users so that what is unacceptable offline will also be unacceptable online.

They will need to consider the risks their sites may pose to the youngest and most vulnerable people and act to protect children from inappropriate content and harmful activity.

They will need to take robust action to tackle illegal abuse, including swift and effective action against hate crimes, harassment and threats directed at individuals and keep their promises to users about their standards.

The largest and most popular social media sites will need to act on content that is lawful but still harmful such as abuse that falls below the threshold of a criminal offence, encouragement of self-harm and mis/disinformation.

The final legislation… will contain provisions that require companies to report child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) content identified on their services.

That takes care of the kind of abuse received by the teenage girl in Rachel Riley’s libel case against me (from Riley’s supporters), and also of the gaslighting (allegedly) carried out against her by Riley herself.

All in-scope companies will need to consider and put in place safeguards for freedom of expression when fulfilling their duties.

People using their services will need to have access to effective routes of appeal for content removed without good reason and companies must reinstate that content if it has been removed unfairly. Users will also be able to appeal to Ofcom.

Category 1 services [the largest and most popular social media sites] will need to conduct and publish up-to-date assessments of their impact on freedom of expression and demonstrate they have taken steps to mitigate any adverse effects.

These measures remove the risk that online companies adopt restrictive measures or over-remove content in their efforts to meet their new online safety duties. An example of this could be AI moderation technologies falsely flagging innocuous content as harmful, such as satire.

Content on news publishers’ websites is not in scope. This includes both their own articles and user comments on these articles.

Articles by recognised news publishers shared on in-scope services will be exempted and Category 1 companies will now have a statutory duty to safeguard UK users’ access to journalistic content shared on their platforms.

This means they will have to consider the importance of journalism when undertaking content moderation, have a fast-track appeals process for journalists’ removed content, and will be held to account by Ofcom for the arbitrary removal of journalistic content. Citizen journalists’ content will have the same protections as professional journalists’ content.

This is handy for people like This Writer, who have had our accounts on Twitter (for example) suspended because of vexatious complaints by (in my case) people who described themselves as supporters of Riley.

Ministers have added new and specific duties to the Bill for Category 1 services to protect content defined as ‘democratically important’. This will include content promoting or opposing government policy or a political party ahead of a vote in Parliament, election or referendum, or campaigning on a live political issue.

Companies will also be forbidden from discriminating against particular political viewpoints and will need to apply protections equally to a range of political opinions, no matter their affiliation. Policies to protect such content will need to be set out in clear and accessible terms and conditions and firms will need to stick to them or face enforcement action from Ofcom.

When moderating content, companies will need to take into account the political context around why the content is being shared and give it a high level of protection if it is democratically important.

For example, a major social media company may choose to prohibit all deadly or graphic violence. A campaign group could release violent footage to raise awareness about violence against a specific group. Given its importance to democratic debate, the company might choose to keep that content up, subject to warnings, but it would need to be upfront about the policy and ensure it is applied consistently.

This is the part that amazes me, coming as it does from a right-wing – fascist – government.

As with everything in politics, the proof of its usefulness is in practice, so I can’t give it my unqualified support.

On paper, it means the court case currently taking up a certain unwanted amount of my time won’t happen again, because the abuse caused to the teenager at its centre would break the law.

Whether the activities provoking that abuse would also be against the new law is an element that may have to be tested, though.

I think we can all look forward to some interesting debates on this in the Commons, where I hope MPs will examine how the new legislation would relate to some of the more infamous online incidents in recent history…

Including those involving me.

Source: Landmark laws to protect children and stop abuse online published – GOV.UK

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Why did ‘celebrity’ Twitter users force suspension of ordinary woman? Because they could

Some of you have been kind enough to notice that This Writer’s @MidWalesMike account has been in the Twitter sin bin since the beginning of the month because somebody didn’t like one of my articles about the court case against Rachel Riley.

That is dangerous enough – it’s clearly an attempt to create a “chilling” effect on my crowdfunding (that, fortunately, has failed – the fund has nearly raised £125,000 since it started nearly two years ago).

But now I read that another Twitter user, who apparently has no public profile at all (she’s not a celebrity or a journalist/blogger or a member of the commentatorati), has found her account suspended, simply for expressing her dislike of an actress.

The actress in question was Tracy-Ann Oberman, who apparently searches the social media platform for any adverse comment about her. Spotting this one, it seems she claimed that the lady in question had to be an anti-Semite, even though no part of the view she expressed in her tweet conveyed any such sentiment. See for yourself:

“It’s a sin was doing so well then I saw Tracy Ann Oberman left a bad taste in my mouth … trying to quickly forget I’ve seen her.”

“Caroline do you think that YOU may be one of those intolerant bigots that Russell is talking about in #itsasin

“Seems you’ve missed the entire point of the series. You and the rest of this thread. Oh dear. @cst @UKLabour @LabourAgainstAS”

The @ tags at the end of Oberman’s tweet are significant. She was tagging in the Community Security Trust and Labour Against Anti-Semitism – both highly vocal self-proclaimed crusaders against anti-Semitism (although both could equally well be described as witch-hunters against people targeted with false claims) along with the Labour Party, because ‘Caroline’ could be seen holding a Labour membership card in her profile picture.

The implication is clear: Oberman wanted to brand ‘Caroline’ an anti-Semite and she wanted to bring Labour’s attention to it. In order to provoke disciplinary action, perhaps? Because this person had expressed an opinion about her appearance in a TV show. Overkill?

No. Overkill is what followed. Oberman’s tweet led to a dogpile so vile that even some of its participants later withdrew their comments and apologised.

I won’t go into the details but you can read about it on Zelo Street if you like.

Then – apparently after pressure from the usual cohort of “blue tick” celebrities – ‘Caroline’ had her Twitter account suspended.

I repeat that she had not expressed a single opinion that was not well within her right. If she doesn’t like Tracy-Ann Oberman, it is not for Tracy-Ann Oberman to take offence and have her hounded off of Twitter. For all Tracy-Ann Oberman knew, ‘Caroline’ had perfectly good reasons for disliking her.

Those reasons don’t have to be restricted to her acting, either. I refer to her “clitoris” comment in response to David Quantick, and her (clearly racist, in my opinion) “Is Ping Pong the Thai help?” query in response to a tweet from Liz Hurley that her parrot had spoken in human language for the first time.

Nevertheless, Tracy-Ann Oberman reacted the way she did, and now an innocent member of the public has been hounded off of Twitter.

You may be wondering why Tracy-Ann Oberman feels justified in having acted as she did. I’ll tell you the answer:

Because there is a court ruling that says she cannot be held to account for it.

It’s the ruling of Mrs Justice Collins Rice in the case brought by Oberman’s friend Rachel Riley against This Writer.

Riley’s legal team had put forward an argument that she could not possibly be held responsible for the behaviour of her followers, who abused and harassed a teenage girl with mental health problems who had had the temerity to criticise her for accusing Owen Jones (and Jeremy Corbyn) of anti-Semitism.

Riley had tagged celebrities, politicians and so-called activists against anti-Semitism into her tweets responding to the girl, who had received many hundreds of responses critical of her as a result – forcing her to quit Twitter several times for the sake of her mental health.

But the judge agreed that Riley was not responsible. Her ruling means nobody else can be, either.

And this is the result.

It is hugely damaging – not only for the safety of people like ‘Caroline’, but for everybody’s Article 10 right to Freedom of Expression according to the Human Rights Act (she was hounded off the platform for expressing an opinion about an actress, remember).

It also contradicts the intentions of Online Harms legislation that is due to pass through Parliament soon. Part of the proposed law would make participation in online dogpiles a criminal offence with serious penalties attached.

As everybody should be aware by now, I have appealed against Mrs Justice Collins Rice’s ruling.

I hope that judges at the Court of Appeal agree that it has created the opportunity for significant harm – and has already caused such harm in the case of ‘Caroline’.

If so, then we may also hope that the ruling is rescinded and the Obermans of this world lose their legal protection.

My case is still going on, I am still crowdfunding to pay its costs, and you are invited to contribute in the time-honoured ways:

Consider making a donation yourself, if you can afford it, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

If you haven’t donated before, perhaps this story will encourage you.

After all, they might come for you next.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Would Rachel Riley have been charged under incoming internet anti-bullying law?

Westminster: Parliament is to consider a new anti-bullying law under which Rachel Riley and her followers may well have been prosecuted. Instead, she has accused me of libel.

This information arrives too late to be included in my bid to beat Rachel Riley’s attempt to strike out my libel defence – but we can hope that the judge has seen it and knows it is coming.

According to the Telegraph, the Tory government’s new “Online Harms” law will include measures to imprison online bullies for a maximum of two years.

It states: “Online bullies and those who join internet ‘pile-ons’ could face up to two years in jail under a raft of seven new criminal ‘duty of care’ offences.

“Ministers are working with the Law Commission to create criminal offences that would allow police to prosecute people responsible for online communications that caused a victim ‘serious emotional distress’.

“It would cover emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages and also pile-on harassment when a number of different individuals send threatening communications to a victim.

“Other offences being considered include incitement or encouragement of pile-on harassment, knowing participation in pile-on harassment and glorification of violence or of violent crime.”

Rachel Riley’s accusation of libel against me is based on her claim that she did not incite or encourage people who follow her Twitter account to dogpile (that’s the correct term for what the Telegraph describes as a “pile-on”) a vulnerable teenager.

The girl who received this unwanted attention suffers from anxiety issues and endured extreme distress as a result.

I wonder whether Riley would be able to escape prison if this law had been in effect in December 2018, when she started picking on that young lady?

As it is, I am still awaiting a judgment on her wafer-thin argument that my defence against her libel claim should be thrown out.

It is nearly a month since the hearing but my solicitor tells me that such delays are not unusual. It is possible that we will have our result on or after January 11, when the High Court’s Christmas vacation ends.

Whatever happens, I will need to fund my defence – and I desperately need help:

Consider making a donation yourself, if you can afford it, via the CrowdJustice page.

Email your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.

Post a link to Facebook, asking readers to pledge.

On Twitter, tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.

It seems clear that Riley could have been tried for a criminal offence if this planned law had been enacted a few years ago.

The fact that she is prosecuting me for pointing out her outrageous behaviour therefore seems even more of an atrocity.

But she is the darling of the media and she is extremely rich – and I am not. And money talks.

Please help me make sure she cannot buy justice – and make a mockery of a new law to protect the vulnerable before it has even had a chance to take effect.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Hodge wants ban on social media anonymity – what a great idea! It will curtail fake anti-Semitism claims

It’s the first time This Writer has agreed with Margaret Hodge in years.

She has said the government must ban online anonymity or make social media directors personally liable for defamatory posts, revealing that she receives tens of thousands of abusive tweets a month:

Hodge accused the government of deliberately delaying the online harms bill in order to avoid difficult conversations with powerful social media companies, and said she was prepared to take up a campaign to make sure the law was tough enough.

The Online Harms Bill arises from a White Paper produced last year – and This Site commented on it at the time.

The White Paper – and now the Bill (I expect; I haven’t actually seen any information on it since April last year) proposed a statutory duty of care, to be conferred on media companies including platforms such as Facebook and Google, online messaging services like WhatsApp and file hosting sites.

They would be required to comply with a code of practice, setting out the steps they must take to meet the duty of care. This may include designing products and platforms to make them safer, directing users who have suffered harm towards support, combating disinformation (for example by using fact-checking services), and improving the transparency of political advertising.

They would be expected to co-operate with police and other enforcement agencies on illegalities including incitement of violence and selling illegal weapons.

And they would have to compile annual “transparency reports” detailing the amount of harmful content found on their platforms and what they are doing to combat it.

The government would have powers to direct the regulator – initially Ofcom, with a dedicated regulator to follow in the future – on specific issues such as terrorist activity or child sexual exploitation.

I pointed out last year that the White Paper did not include any measures to stop people creating anonymous accounts.

If Ms Hodge wants to see that happen now, then I am all for it.

It will stop me receiving much (but not all) of the abuse I get from people wrongly accusing me of anti-Semitism after the Labour Party expelled me under false pretences (as shown in court).

But that’s not what was on offer in April last year. As I made perfectly clear, “regulating online media platforms will not stop people posting “harmful” content to them, if there is nothing to stop them from doing so. It is farcically easy to create anonymous accounts, from which to post objectionable and/or abusive content.

“Shut one down? That’s fine – the individual responsible can have another up and running in a matter of minutes, if they don’t have multiple aliases working already.”

And I made that point that “it has been argued that people must have a right to be able to post anonymously, because of personal circumstances that make it important – possibly for their personal safety.”

My response: “Fine. A system can be devised in which people apply for anonymity and the number of people or organisations able to ascertain their real identity is strictly limited. That would allow these individuals to continue functioning in the online world. And it would prevent others from abusing social media platforms. Any posts from an unrecognised anonymous account would be easy to flag up and isolate.”

If Ms Hodge is proposing such a system then I am behind her every step of the way, and never mind all the other differences we have.

Although – as a staunch witch-hunter herself – I wonder whether she would approve of that outcome.

Source: Margaret Hodge calls for ban on social media anonymity | Online abuse | The Guardian

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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