Category Archives: New media

Rumours of our demise are greatly exaggerated

Vampire

Regular readers will have noticed the drop in posts recent weeks, chief amongst them Guido Fawkes, who is evidently feeling a little lonely without us.

Behind the scenes, the Scrapbook team have been working hard on the infrastructure behind the site. This planned and temporary distraction from editorial — along with unplanned days spent lobbying against botched plans to regulate the blogosphere last week – has been an investment to ensure Political Scrapbook is secure and better than ever in the long term.

Our evil plans for the next few months include:

  • A redesign for the site
  • Bringing back our weekly gossip email
  • New campaigns and petitions
  • And more of the humour, political attack and investigative journalism you know and love

We’re sharpening our fangs and will be back sucking Tory blood shortly.

Left and right united: bloggers’ letter to Guardian in full

Guardian blogs letter

Here is the unedited letter to the Guardian from a diverse coalition of UK bloggers who are horrified by the government’s botched plans to regulate the internet and small publishers. The signatories include some, such as Owen Jones and Laurie Penny, whose backing was secured too late for the print edition.

Dear Editor,

The Leveson Inquiry was set up to address “the culture, practices and ethics of the press, including contacts between the press and politicians and the press and the police”. Our views diverge on whether the outcome of the Leveson process — and the plans for a new regulator — are the best way forward. But where we all agree is that current attempts at regulating blogs and other small independent news websites are critically flawed.

The government has defined a “relevant publisher” for the purposes of press regulation in a way that seeks to draft campaign groups and community-run websites covering neighbourhood planning applications and local council affairs and campaign groups into a regulator designed for the Guardian, Sun and Daily Mail.”

Even the smallest of websites will be threatened with the stick of punitive “exemplary damages” if they fall foul of a broad range of torts encompassing everything from libel to “breach of confidence”. The authors of these proposals should reflect on their remarkable achievement of uniting both Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch in opposition.

This appears to be the outcome of a botched late-night drafting process and complete lack of consultation with bloggers, online journalists and social media users, who may now be caught in regulations which trample on grassroots democratic activity and Britain’s emerging digital economy.

Leveson was meant to be focussed on the impact of “Big Media”. In the end it may come to be seen as a damaging attack on Britain’s blogosphere, which rather than being a weakness in British politics, has proved time and time again that it is a real strength.

We will all continue to write, publish, campaign, cajole, amuse and irritate online. But we consider the current proposals a fundamental threat to doing just that.

Regards

Mark Ferguson, LabourList
Tim Montgomerie, ConservativeHome
Stephen Tall, LibDemVoice
Laurence Durnan, Political Scrapbook
Paul Staines, Editor, Guido Fawkes’ Blog
Laurie Penny, New Statesman
Owen Jones, Independent columnist and blogger
Nick Pickles, Director, Big Brother Watch
Jim Killock, Executive Director, Open Rights Group
Harry Cole, Guido Fawkes’ blog
David Hencke, Exaro
Sunny Hundal, Liberal Conspiracy
James Bloodworth, Left Foot Forward
Alex Wickham, The Commentator
Adam Bienkov, Snipe London and Kidbrooke Kite
Neal Lawson, Compass
Emma Burnell, Scarlet Standard
Luke Akehurst, Luke’s Blog

As with the letter’s reference to Tom Watson and Rupert Murdoch, getting those signatories to stop hating on each other for enough time to agree on anything is a minor miracle.

Plans for media regulator include ‘associate membership’ for blogs

Keyboard macro

Policymakers working on plans for a new media regulator are drafting proposals for blogs to undertake “associate membership” the successor to the Press Complaints CommissionPolitical Scrapbook understands.

Options being considered as an outcome of a process which predates this week’s shock proposals that many blogs should be regulated include:

  • A lower or nominal membership fee for blogs in comparison to newspapers and broadcasters
  • Simplified set of obligations/requirements, which would include having clear internal processes to deal with complaints
  • Possible representation for bloggers on the new body

With a new body being funded by newspapers and broadcasters, media corporations are understood to be opposed to free membership for blogs and/or comprehensive access to services provided.

The draft proposals echo 2011 comments from Press Complaints Commission chairman Lord Hunt in which he suggested a “kitemark” was necessary to tame the “wild west” blogosphere:

“I want accuracy to be the new gold standard for blogs. Once they have agreed to be accurate, everything would follow from that. I would like to see a ‘Kitemark’ on the best blogs so the public can trust what they read in them.”

While the mainstream media have had comprehensive lobbying operations up and running for months, almost no effort was made to consult the blogosphere before surprise amendments to the Crime and Courts Bill widened the scope of proposed regulation.

Blogs across the spectrum, including Political Scrapbook, would be classified as “relevant publishers” under new proposals:

(1) In sections [Awards of exemplary damages] to [Awards of costs], “relevant publisher” means a person who, in the course of a business (whether or not carried on with a view to profit), publishes news-related material—
(a) which is written by different authors, and
(b) which is to any extent subject to editorial control.

Outlets such as Guido Fawkes have already pledged to resist any attempts at regulation.

With policymaking on the hoof and a failure to engage with bloggers, however, the mainstream parties have done their utmost to offend even those who might be open to the new arrangements.

George Galloway wants government to “impose sanctions” on Twitter (but he’s still an avid user)

galloway twitter

“Gorgeous” George Galloway went on a bit of an EDM-spree last Thursday, laying down six individual pieces of parliamentary graffiti in a single day. Galloway is a prodigious user of EDMs having been the primary sponsor of 77 of them in just over six months.

But one of George’s less popular Early day motions caught Scrapbook’s eye this morning – especially in light of continued debates around the regulation of the internet.

Early day motion 1190 – currently only backed by two MPs – states that:

“That this House notes that Twitter is now a very widely used mode of social networking; further notes that Twitter is a US-based enterprise whose primary motivation is to maximise its profits; further notes that Twitter is now used for a variety of criminal activities including sending malicious communications; further notes that Twitter refuses to co-operate with the UK authorities in general and the police in particular in trying to detect the source of criminal communications ‘unless it is a matter of life and death’, to be determined by Twitter; believes that this failure to co-operate with the detection of the sources of criminal behaviour is reprehensible; and calls on the Government to impose sanctions on Twitter until it agrees to fully co-operate with the UK authorities and police in the detection of crime.”

Yet despite Galloway’s attempts to have sanctions placed on Twitter – the Bradford MP certainly hasn’t been toning down his use of the network. Despite his concerns, he’s sent well over 100 Tweets and Retweets since placing the EDM on Thursday. 

That’s one type of boycott that George seems unwilling to make 

Luke Bozier company becomes third to be shut down by regulators

Luke Bozier

A company founded by Luke Bozier has been shut down by regulators for failing to submit accounts — after confidently predicting revenues of more than £5,000,000 per year. The news comes as the sometime business partner of Louise Mensch sits on bail pending on suspicion of viewing or possessing indecent images of children.

Following in the footsteps of CholertonShand and Red Narrative, Political Press Ltd becomes the third company run by Bozier to be struck off and dissolved by Companies House in this way. Political Press is thought to be the legal vehicle for Bozier’s Municipo software aimed at local government.

In a presentation prepared for potential investors in the US, Bozier boasts that the service could “save American taxpayers $1bn over the next decade” and that the business would have a turnover “in excess of $8,000,000″ within five years.

Municipo claims of profit by Luke Bozier

Municipo claims of savings by Luke Bozier

Louise Mensch is certainly not the only credible figure to be taken in by Bozier. Kevin Doran, the managing director of a Brussels-based public affairs firm, was somehow persuaded to take a 20-percent stake in the venture and features in a slide on the Municipo “team”. Naturally, Bozier repeats his favourite lie that he was “Head of New Media for Tony Blair”.

Kevin Doran in presentation by Luke Bozier

And the hat trick of failed ventures could yet become four. A London-based tech site reports:

“The Kernel understands that Twitter rival Menshn, which has been struggling to acquire and retain users after a launch marred by ridicule, is being shuttered after a wave of negative publicity centred its the former co-founder”

“A source close to Louise Mensch told The Kernel that the site will be taken down in the new year, following a three week notice period for existing users.”

Fond of invoking entrepreneurial jargon, Bozier certainly seems to have taken the Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast” to heart.

Government ‘Instagram your policy’ scheme flops with just four entries

A blue-sky drive by Vince Cable’s department has spectacularly flopped after only four people took part. Redolent of a backseat-of-the-cab scheme from The Thick Of It, the initiative, dubbed “Instagram Your Policy”, joins a long list of failed Whitehall social media initiatives.

The original morale-boosting vision was that BIS employees would submit photos of their policies from the Instagram mobile phone app, which would then be showcased on the BIS Pinterest board.

Here is the, errr, cream of the crop:

This picture symbolises UK manufacturing. Apparently.

We’re not quite sure what the UK Space Agency meant here.

The government’s digital@BIS blog wrote:

“We got a disappointingly low level of responses – four, although we’ve been promised a fifth.”

The department’s senior digital engagement adviser seemed utterly stumped by the lack of interest: “we’re not quite sure why the response was this low”.

In refreshing honesty uncharacteristic of Whitehall, the mandarin admitted:

“We’ll need to do some internal thinking about if and how we run this type of initiative again.”

Perhaps they should concentrate on the Business and Skills bits.

Twitter reacts to Berlusconi’s four year jail sentence for tax evasion

More Twitter reaction »

Top civil servant: letter to Prezza was censored without approval

  • Section mysteriously vanishes from letter to Prescott 
  • Original letter contained slap-down for DCLG
  • Top adviser confirms it was edited without permission

Government attempts to explain why a sensitive letter from the UK’s most senior civil servant was altered without his knowledge had Guido Fawkes spinning for their mates over at DCLG earlier today.

After a letter to John Prescott from then cabinet secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell was edited to remove key sections, the Guido team seemed rather keen to believe the explanations of government whips, assuring us that:

“the letter in question was censored simply to redact factual errors”

One of the missing sections was a slap-down for DCLG for failing to inform former ministers about parliamentary questions relating to them — a tactic used repeatedly to ambush Prescott in the press. Indeed, correspondence from Sir Jeremy Heywood seen by Political Scrapbook appears to contradict Guido and their friends in the Tory whips office, confirming that this section:

“… was removed in error and the letter of 22 November was issued without Gus O’Donnell’s authority”

The section critical of DCLG and censored from the letter was not a “factual error” at all.

It appears Guido’s cynicism about what goes on in Whitehall is as selective as ever.

YOU CAN READ OUR ORIGINAL STORY ON THE FAKED-UP LETTER HERE.

  • Follow us on Twitter