The deeds to match the words

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The deeds to match the words


As you know, I have been calling for a new social media regulator with tough powers for some time now. The social media giants have been completely unaccountable over the last 10 years. And if you look at Facebook, a company that facilitates the livestreaming of a massacre, they are beyond any norms of ethics and moral behaviour.

Even Mark Zuckerberg, who to many represents the epitome of all that is wrong in this sphere, has said this past week that governments need to regulate internet giants to protect ‘election integrity’.

So I have welcomed the government's white paper to deal with online harm with a regulator to enforce a statutory duty of care on social media and powers to fine senior executives.The plans for personal liability of executives whose platforms fail to take responsibility are particularly promising.

But I have some major concerns namely that these plans look like they will take years to implement when we need reform urgently to protect children and others vulnerable to harms online. 

And whilst these proposals are a good first step, they don’t really address the root of the problem which is market failure. Frankly, Google and Facebook are too big. They dominate too much of the digital advertising market. They think they’re unaccountable to their customers and the market and in those cases government must step in to regulate the market and get it back on track.

Which brings me back to Mark Zuckerberg, who - speaking about regulations - has stated that he is "looking forward to discussing plans with lawmakers around the world".

That would be good to hear if only his deeds ever matched his words. Unfortunately it is difficult to escape the vision of the empty chair left with his name on it during the DCMS Select Committee fake news hearing last year.

I have written to Mr Zuckerberg this week inviting him to meet me in my role as Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, along with my colleague Liam Byrne, Shadow Digital Minister.

It is the fourth letter I have sent him this year. Like the other three, I am not expecting a reply. Perhaps I should just post them on Facebook.



Who pays the piper?

Startling reports into the secret funding of no-deal Brexit ads on Facebook appear to show a darkness at the heart of our politics.

Yet, if true, they suggest that it is Boris Johnson's would-be kingmaker Lynton Crosby who is masterminding the shadowy £1m campaign to undermine our democracy.

It's good to hear that the information commissioner has launched an investigation. But it is critical that Johnson and Crosby are called before the DCMS Select Committee to tell us what they know about the funding of these operations.


1000 days of delay

We've now had three days of Brexit talks with the Tories. Having been locked out of discussions for 1000 long, unnecessary days, this process is clearly going to take time. 

I am hopeful that we can come up with a creative solution, and I am pleased to see that the Labour party is holding it together in difficult circumstances. 

We are going into the talks with an open mind. But about 80 per cent of Labour MPs support a confirmatory ballot and unless a final say is part of any deal we would have difficulty within the parliamentary party. 

As I told the Today programme yesterday, with Theresa May, the Tories and the House of Commons having failed to resolve Brexit, it is pretty clear the people need to be part of this process.

I am a reluctant convert to the confirmatory ballot but I now believe it is the only way to solve this national crisis.


No ifs, no buts

"The Labour party has always had a long, proud and noble tradition of standing up against all forms of prejudice and racism. But in the last few years it has let the Jewish community down. The message to the Jewish community should be clear and unequivocal: ‘You will never walk alone and we will never walk on by on the other side. We must never tolerate intolerance'."

Not my words but those of Gordon Brown who this week signed up as a member of the Jewish Labour Movement, and also paid a powerful video tribute to Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 600 children from the Nazis.

As the JLM is currently considering whether to stay affiliated to the Labour party, I wrote an article urging its members to keep our historic bond. I promised to continue to monitor and press for action on antisemitism within the Labour Party for as long as it takes. As Gordon says: "No ifs, no buts, no qualifications, no caveats."


Gods of Games

Congratulations to the team behind God of War and all the other winners at the 15th annual Bafta Games Awards. I was particularly pleased to see Florence, which I flagged up here a couple of weeks back, picking up the "Mobile" award. It's designed from a women's perspective and offers a non-violent alternative for younger gamers. Just the sort of creativity we need. Full list of winners here


No fooling


April 1st brought the implementation of the cut in stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £2 a go. It also saw the gambling industry roll-out a new series of roulette-style games, which bore a strange resemblance to FOBTs - and looked like a pretty disgraceful example of bad faith by the bookmakers involved. The next day they were withdrawn under pressure from the industry regulator. Good. We will not be taken for fools.



Talking of fools...


I can only imagine Jacob Rees-Mogg tweeting out the thoughts of a far-right German nationalist leader was some kind of prank borne from the playing fields of Eton.


An enigma wrapped in a riddle

"The Matrix was difficult to describe. Yet it somehow became a word-of-mouth hit, the rare blockbuster that opens at No. 1 at the box office, falls to No. 2, and then climbs back to the top position. It’s the kind of dazzling, original film that inspires a generation of fans and imitators - and the kind of movie Hollywood wouldn’t make in today’s franchise-heavy media landscape."

Twenty years on, The Atlantic celebrates of one of the finest movies ever made.



For art's sake

A new all-party parliamentary group was announced this week to support diversity in the arts. Its chaired by former Arts Minister Ed Vaizey and my thespian colleague Tracy Brabin is a vice-chair. It aims to engage with Government and industry to “identify and tackle obstacles to diversity in the creative sector”. Brilliant.


Hooked to the silver screen*

The British Film Institute (BFI) archive represents an unrivalled collection of screen heritage. Among its gems is a David Bowie interview with broadcaster Mavis Nicholson. The 1979 footage, along with other Bowie highlights, is being showcased this month (13th April) at the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival and gives a striking insight into his innermost thoughts, and brilliant mind.

The interview makes for fascinating viewing, from his loathing for Donald Duck to his impeccable manners (‘is this (cigarette) smoke bothering you?’). And it reminds us how much his creative genius is missed*


State of play

Another week, another shocking report about music education provision in schools. The latestfrom the Musician’s Union (MU) reveals that the majority of primary and secondary school teachers are seeing music squeezed. This is despite it being a core national curriculum subject. This is despite the widespread evidence of the benefits from learning an instrument for the development of all children. I’ve called repeatedly for the government to step up and provide proper funding to ensure young people from all backgrounds have access to music and the arts. Support must also be given to innovative schemes, such as the partnership between Islington Council and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. The collaboration is believed to be the first of its kind and means the Guildhall will deliver music education in the borough. That includes ensuring that every child aged 5-18 has the opportunity to learn a musical instrument.


A stage for the boys


Omitting female playwrights from a new programme announcement shows a distinct lack of commitment to gender parity by the National Theatre. More than 200 writers including award-winner Zinnie Harris have condemned the all-male line up. The theatre’s joint chief executives Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger have responded by claiming ‘clear targets’ have been set to affect ‘positive change’. For a positive shift to take place then the National needs to ensure women get their equal share of the limelight.


For Nazanin

"If we allow this to happen to one of us, we allow this to happen to all of us." 

This excellent piece by Amnesty's Daren Nair marks three years incarcerated in an Iranian jail for an innocent British mother. Please support to #FreeNazanin.