Thursday, 22 March 2018

Who on earth would trust the Tories?


The Tory party reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal is every bit as cynical and opportunistic as you'd expect.

Instead of focusing on the election rigging psychological warfare tools these shady characters have built on the the Facebook data they stand accused of stealing, the Tories are attempting to reframe the whole debate to paint Facebook as the big bad villains, and to promote the Tories' pre-existing agenda of clamping down on Internet freedoms.

In an article for George Osborne's Evening Standard propaganda sheet the Tory Culture minister Matt Hancock has bragged about his plan to "bring an end to the Wild West culture" of social media. 

This article makes his Facebook-blaming, responsibility-shifting, censorship-pushing agenda all too clear. Not just by what he says, but also by what he conspicuously fails to say.

Here are some of the many issues that Matt Hancock "forgot" to mention in his "Wild West" article.
One of the reasons the Tories are trying to shift the focus of the blame onto Facebook is really obvious. They recognise that the intimate financial links between the big players in this dodgy election rigging outfit and their own party look terrible, so shifting as much of the blame as possible to Facebook is a simple deflection tactic.

Another reason they're keen to blame Facebook is the £2.1 million they blasted on targeted dark ads.

The Tories outspent Labour by 4:1 on Facebook ads, but their influence on the site was more than negated by a rag-tag bunch of viral left-wing bloggers working on shoestring budgets.

If you'd spent such a huge amount of money in an effort to buy Facebook popularity and ended up getting humbled by a tiny bunch of bloggers who didn't even spend a single penny on buying Facebook ads, you'd be furious too.


Which brings us to what the Tories have in store for Facebook. There's no doubt whatever that the Tories will seek to use this mess to their own advantage, even though the money trail flows right back to the Tory party.

The most likely approach they're going to take is to strong-arm Facebook into clamping down on the freedom that has allowed independent voices to gain popularity by challenging the pro-austerity, pro-privatisation, wage repression pushing, welfare slashing, hard-right political agenda that so often goes completely unchallenged by the mainstream media.

Meanwhile they have absolutely no intention of clamping down on the use of the kind of targeted political dark ads they used extensively during the 2017 general election campaign. 


Sensible proposals include updating the existing rules against spreading political lies during elections, a requirement that all political ads be logged with the electoral authorities, and for geographically targeted social media ads to be classified as local election spending.

You'll never hear Tory politicians proposing any of these measures, because all of them would go against their self-interest.


When the Tories say that they want to make the Internet "safe", it's obvious that what they actually mean is that they want to turn social media into another comfortable "safe space" for themselves, where those who challenge the hard-right neoliberal orthodoxy are pushed to the margins. And if they can cynically make use of a crisis that was actually created by their fellow Tories at SCL/Cambridge Analytica to achieve it, all the better for them.

Anyone who paid attention to the bullet points above has got to be able to see that a bunch of Tories promising to keep us safe on the Internet is akin to a skulk of foxes promising to take care of security for your chicken coop.

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