YouTube must act against Yaxley-Lennon

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No platform for the preacher of hate


On Tuesday I welcomed the belated decision of Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook and Instagram platforms to take down the pages linked to the violent, racist, Islamophobic campaigner Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, for breaching their "Organised Hate" policies.

Since then Yaxley-Lennon's supporters have been transferring over their support for his virulent hate to YouTube, the only remaining platform of global significance to which he has access.

As I write this newsletter, Yaxley-Lennon's subscribers have jumped from 294,000 to 330,000. He is also using YouTube to channel support to a new website where they can make donations to keep his fascist movement alive.

It is now imperative that YouTube follows suit and halts the use of its platform for his hate speech. To that end I wrote yesterday to Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google - YouTube's parent company, calling on him as a matter of the utmost urgency to ban Yaxley-Lennon from its site.


It is unforgivable that the virus of the hate preacher's views are still being allowed to groom thousands of more followers when those views are clearly in breach of YouTube's own hate speech policy. Every day Mr Pichai allows this to continue strengthens the case for a powerful and independent regulator of the unaccountable, irresponsible social media giants.


The gambling canary



On Thursday, in a speech at the IPPR, I set out Labour's new plans to tackle online gambling. The 2005 Gambling Act was written so long ago it has more mentions of the postal service than the internet. It is simply not fit for the digital age.

I said the lack of controls in the online space, which turns over £5 billion in bets every year, is leading to gross excesses, abuse and vulnerable problem-gamblers being let down; and I called for a culture of limits to internet gambling: a system of thresholds placed on the spend, stake and speed of online gambling that will give safeguards to consumers.

Part of my thinking in this area - and that of social media regulation - has been drawn from Professor Shoshana Zuboff’s masterful book ‘The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, in which she outlines how the internet is changing our economy and the very basis of capitalism itself. 

The mega corporations of our age - Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon - in her words ‘claim human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioural data’ which is then turned into predictions of what you will do now, soon, and later. 

Then these companies trade these predictions with marketeers and corporations, translating your whole life into devilishly sophisticated advertising that plays to your deepest desires, experiences, needs and weaknesses. 

I believe online betting, gaming and gambling is the canary in the mine of surveillance capitalism. Online betting platforms use surveillance capitalism to track and understand and - yes - to predict and change the behaviour of users. 

They use this information to enrich themselves by making their games addictive, to sell tailored advertising and to cross-market their products, and to extract money from their customers.

What they fail, appallingly, to do is to use this information to intervene when it is clear that their users have developed a problem with gambling. In fact, a recent Guardian investigation found the industry was using third parties to harvest data in order to target ads at poorer people and ex-gamblers, potentially luring back gambling-addicts in recovery.

The truth is that surveillance capitalism has transformed gambling - giving the ‘house’ an advantage that Las Vegas casinos would kill for: the ability to know and to predict the minds and the actions of their users, sometimes better than their users themselves.

You can read or watch my full speech here.


Of skins and loot boxes


Gambling regulators across the world are expressing concern over the blurring of lines between video games and gambling. Many are calling for greater controls on skin trading, loot boxes and the use of gambling-themed content within video games.

I don't want gaming to become the gateway for gambling. But as we look at regulation in this area, I want video game players to be part of this debate. On Thursday I launched a consultation on gambling, gaming, loot boxes and skins. Please, if you are a gamer, take part in the survey here and spread the message.



The state we're in

Doing the media rounds while launching Labour's gambling review, I found myself being asked a lot of questions about anti-semitism, the state of the Labour Party, Jeremy's leadership, and the suspension of Chris Williamson. If you want to see what I actually said, rather than the rants of trolls on social media, you can watch my ITN interview here.



Right notes, right order

As a composer and a conductor Andre Previn was driven by a passion and determination to share his prodigious talent and his love of music.

His work in Hollywood, including My Fair Lady, saw him honoured with four Oscars; and his partnership with the London Symphony Orchestra spanned six decades and harnessed, uniquely for the time, the power of TV.

Of course, in this country he will be best remembered for the Grieg Piano Concerto sketch on Morecambe and Wise - one of the finest moments in the history of British television.

Through an extraordinary musical career, Previn's greatest achievement was to bring classical music to a vast new audience far beyond the elite concert halls. In doing so, he didn't just - as Eric might say - play the notes in the right order. He played them with wit, flourish and a smile.


Money for nothing (and no ships for free)

The Seaborne Freight "no ferries" contract has turned into a scandalous, needless, reckless waste of £33 million of public money. It is the culmination of the Tories' gross failure in Brexit negotiations and their botched effort to prepare for the disastrous folly of a no deal - an option which shouldn't even be on the table. Heads must roll. 


Dignity of the age

On Tuesday in the House of Commons my shadow ministerial colleague Dr Rosena Allin-Khan gave a harrowing account of what happened to her father, who has dementia, while in care.

She spoke of his blood on the walls, the unexplained bruising, being found slumped unconscious on a communal floor with the carer's set of keys by his side. And, from the council officials and care facility management, not a single decent explanation. No-one disciplined.

And NO, Rosena's father did not "ask for it". All he would ask, like other dementia sufferers, would be for a "fair chance at ageing safely and gracefully".

By 2025, more than one million people in UK will have dementia. We don't just need to find a way to pay for that care. We need to ensure, as Rosena said, "even more families don't experience the horror of finding their loved one bruised, bleeding and terrified”.


Peep, peep, hooray!

Five Oscar statuettes were claimed by the British film industry last Sunday, showcasing once again the breadth and creativity of talent in this country - on camera, behind the camera, and in the sound, mixing and special effects studios

Massive congratulations to Mark Ronson - Original Song for Shallow in A Star is Born; Nina Hartstone and John Warhurst - Sound Editing on Bohemian Rhapsody;
Paul Massey - Sound Mixing on Bohemian Rhapsody; Paul Lambert - Visual Effects on First Man.

And last, but not least, to the wonderful Peep Show protege Olivia Colman, who demonstrated not just that she is Best Actress for her role as Queen Anne in The Favourite, but also that she is the undisputed Queen of the Best Acceptance Speech.


Fizz out with a bang

As we say au revoir to Fizz Free February, I would just like to send a huge cheer out to all those councils, schools, health organisations and community groups who encouraged families and children to cut out sugary, fizzy drinks. I really hope we have been able to get the message across about tackling childhood obesity, and not solely for one month of the year.

Finally, the biggest cheer of all to Signe Norberg and all the team at Southwark Council for driving and sharing their brilliant campaign. See you next year! 



Every child deserves music's magic

Congratulations to Jess Gillam on becoming Radio 3's youngest presenter. The 20-year-old saxophonist will host This Classical Life, a new Saturday lunchtime programme, in a drive to attract younger listeners. Her musical career began aged seven at the Barracudas Carnival Band in Barrow-in-Furness. Jess also credits her success to a music tuition scheme that she joined at 11. Both however have fallen victim to cuts, as the musician reveals in a heartfelt letter to the Guardian. Music changed her life according to Jess and is neither a 'soft subject' nor a 'luxury.' Without its magic we are 'crushing creativity, innovation and expression,' she adds. Let's hope the government takes note.


Class in publishing


Difficult, off-putting and prejudiced. That's how The Bookseller editor Philip Jones says the publishing business is viewed by working class writers and staff. His magazine's first ever survey into class reveals that a staggering nine in ten (91%) published authors said their careers had been adversely affected by their backgrounds. Jones says publishing has made 'huge efforts' to become more representative, and that the business is changing for the better. But he concedes it's still 'dominated by the middle-classes'.

A study published in 2016 by Dr Dave O'Brien from Goldsmiths echoes this. His research revealed that only a small proportion (12%) of people in publishing were from working class backgrounds. And the picture was similar for authors. What's needed is an end to unpaid internships, low wages and an end to the dominance of a London-based old boys network. 



Farewell my friend


It was warming to see all the wonderful tributes from the worlds of business and politics to Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, who passed away on Thursday. He leaves many legacies, not least his role in brokering the deal with Tata to buy Jaguar Land Rover, saving and creating thousands of jobs across the West Midlands.

I was privileged to have Kumar as a friend and I’m deeply saddened that the country has lost such a great man. He was a towering intellect, an industrial visionary as well as being very kind and funny. My children loved him. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones and many friends and colleagues.