Tag Archives: platform

Plan for social media regulator will attack the symptom of ‘harmful content’ – not the cause

A Tory government plan to hold bosses of social media platforms responsible for their content will not stop the flow of “harmful” material onto the internet.

The “online harm” White Paper proposes 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.

A couple of thoughts occur.

Firstly, I wonder if the media organisations who use the internet, such as the BBC, other TV companies, radio channels and newspapers realise that they would also be responsible for “combating disinformation (for example by using fact-checking services)” – and that includes during elections or referendum periods? If they had actually bothered to check a few claims during the referendum campaign, the UK might be in a very different position today.

Secondly, 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.

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.

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.

Now, I admit that’s just an idea off the top of my head, but it is workable – and if I can think of it, I’m sure government advisors have thought of it too.

And they have decided to attack social media platforms instead.

So the real questions here are: Why these choices? And what is their real purpose?

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Why the Tory-led debt crisis has worsened

Never mind the playing field sell-offs for a moment; they’re only a small part of the economic mess over which the UK’s Conservative-led government is presiding.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown that in July the government borrowed £3.4 billion more than on the same month last year. Net borrowing was £557 million (according to The Guardian), but the government made a surplus this time last year, and the figures were a serious disappointment for economic analysts, who had been predicting another surplus of about £2.5 billion.

So far this year, public sector net borrowing – excluding banking interventions and a one-off boost from a transfer (some say theft) of Royal Mail pension assets to the Treasury – was £47.2 billion, up from £35.6 billion during the same period in 2011.

The Office for National Statistics said net debt was 65.7 per cent of GDP. The BBC said this amounted to £1.032 billion, but I think £1.032 trillion is nearer the mark.

The Treasury says disappointing Corporation Tax receipts are to blame, especially after the closure of the Elgin oil platform.

Some analysts say the government may now overshoot its target for reduced borrowing this year, of £120 billion, possibly by more than £35 billion (excluding the Royal Mail effect)

I say that the Coalition government’s economic mismanagement has reached new heights.

We know what’s happening: This government has left open tax loopholes – such as exempting profits earned in overseas subsidiaries from taxation – that have allowed corporations to sit on hundreds of billions of pounds in retained profits.

It abolished the bankers’ bonus tax, so the financiers who caused the mess are not only still paying themselves average salaries of £350,000, but also enjoying billions in bonuses.

It has abolished the 50p top tax rate – creating a tax break for the rich. Executive pay has risen by more than eight per cent this year.

The richest thousand people in Britain own 25 per cent of its wealth – £1.5 trillion.

At the same time, benefits have been slashed, leading to mass suicides and health-related deaths.

VAT has been increased, helping to stall the economy.

Inflation has risen.

Income tax and National Insurance have increased in real terms.

University tuition fees have been tripled, meaning students face years – perhaps decades – of work to pay off the loans they have to take out, simply to get an education.

Public sector pay has been frozen.

Tax avoidance is only seen as a problem if it’s done by a satirical comedian with a talent for humiliating the Coalition government.

And then there’s that massive Royal Mail pensions raid.

And we see that the government is borrowing more, due to a fall in corporation tax payments.

We know why it’s happening: The government wants to cut public services down to (if David Cameron has his way) nothing apart from the judiciary and security services. Everything else is to be sold off to private corporations in order to fleece the general public of whatever they have left – wages, benefits, savings.

Some people are saying that the Tory economic policy has failed. They say George Osborne, as Chancellor, set out an economic goal and a method for achieving it – only to find that his methods have made the problem far worse. They say that his stubbornness in pressing on, even after being told his plan is a disaster, makes him the very definition of a failure.

Silly, silly people.

They forget how much the Conservatives love the private sector and hate public services. Their instinct is to ensure that large corporations (the kind that are happy to give funds to the Tories) have as much opportunity to make as much money as possible. They don’t want to balance the nation’s account books; that would mean taxing the rich and the corporations – in essence, biting the hands that feed them.

As long as the UK is in the red, they’ll have a perfect excuse to do as much damage to public services – and the vast majority of the population that relies on them – as they possibly can.

Let’s go back to the playing fields now. The decision to spite the legacy of the Olympic games by selling off 31 of these fields – 10 more than the Department for Education had previously admitted – was a gift on a day when the economy was shown to be utterly unfit while in Tory hands. They provide so many opportunities for clever wordplay, don’t they?

For example, I could say that, instead of levelling the playing field (in terms of the deficit and national borrowing) the Tories have made it steeper – possibly to match the slope at sold-off Woodhouse Middle School in Staffordshire.

But it would be more accurate to say that these Conservative Party hooligans have got onto the pitch – and spoiled it for everyone else.