Exposing a lack of clarity in conventional thinking
In 2009, I started writing comment pieces for this website and (since 2021) for my associated newsletter. Examples range from the offside rule in football () to banning people from social media (); from Prince Harry’s bottom () to politicians battling with lawyers over human rights ().
In January of this year, Covid-19’s second wave was getting going. The vaccine program was just starting. And recently retired doctors wanted to return to work in order to help out. Famously, the reaction of the bureaucrats at the Department of health was to provide applicants with a tidal wave of online modules to complete. The Times reported one doctor complaining that she was only a quarter of the way through after six hours of form-filling.
Earlier this month, Facebook’s Oversight Board upheld the decision to ban someone from its site. The “someone” in question happened to be Donald Trump, but that has no bearing on this article. I want to examine the debate that rages over the principle of social media sites being able to ban anyone at all from their platforms.
As a lifelong supporter of Queens Park Rangers, it is second nature to revel when local rivals, Chelsea, are on the wrong end of a result. So yesterday’s Cup Final result should have been a time of great joy for me. But the decision by VAR (the Video Assistant Referee) to rule out Chelsea’s equaliser as offside was, frankly, absurd.
As an experiment, I am relocating these Comment and Analysis articles to a new website called Irregular Thoughts. Clicking on any of the “Read More” links on the Comment & Analysis page will take you directly to the relevant article on that site. If you are not already a subscriber, you can subscribe from that site. Emails (including the initial registration acknowledgement) will be sent from email@example.com. If you don’t see the emails, please check your junk folder and mark the sender’s address as “not spam”.
If the experiment goes well, the move will be made permanent.
Submission to BEIS
In 2016, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) issued a regulation known as TAS 100, which governs certain activities that are open to anyone to undertake. But the regulation applies only when the activity is carried out by an actuary. This has created the anomalous position that:
In Hollywood, there is a story-writing guru, Robert McKee. After listening to one of his talks, many years ago, I gained the abiding impression that the most powerful story endings are those that you didn’t see coming and yet, with hindsight, the narrative had been building to that all along. One of McKee’s favourite examples – and mine – is Casablanca.
BBC’s Line of Duty cried out for an ending of such proportions. After all, this latest series had been deemed important enough to feature in news broadcasts. (And not just the BBC News. If you haven’t seen the final episode yet, stay away from today’s newsstands: several of the papers have a prime plot point plastered all over their front pages.)
But the writer, Jed Mercurio, seemed to have long ago abandoned any attempt at such a climax.
Should social media regulation be aiming at a different goal?
This weekend, the professional football community in the UK will boycott social media. The “gesture”, initiated by the anti-racism charity, Kick It Out, and others, is a call to “those with power [within social media] … to do more and to act faster … to make their platforms a hostile environment for trolls”. At the time of writing, British rugby and British cricket has announced that they will join the boycott.
I wish them all luck. Something is needed to deliver major change.
A good place to start might be improved clarity around the nature of social media and the responsibility its providers take for the words and images that appear on their forums. At the moment, much of the thinking is confused and confusing.
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