Reading the Times newspaper yesterday, I was somewhat gobsmacked to see Sean O’Neill, the paper’s chief reporter, complaining that “The UK has no constitutional protection for a free press and no real cap on costs for libel actions.” These two facts formed the centrepiece of his argument that abuse of British courts is killing free speech. But, after years of campaigning against these protections, is the Times now regretting its success?
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.
There are widespread calls to regulate social media. Hardly a day goes by without some new outrage which eclipses what we have seen already. One of the great problems for anyone wishing to put a stop to the abuse is that social media users can easily make themselves anonymous. If they are ejected from a platform, they can re-enrol under a new identity. All it takes to open an account on a platform is an email address. And all it takes to get an email address is … absolutely nothing at all.Read more
A few weeks ago, I spoke at an international conference on regulation. One of my fellow panellists told me, as we took our seats, that he was against regulation. I rubbed my hands with glee in anticipation that sparks would soon begin to fly. Sadly, the only sparks were the evidence of us getting on like a house on fire. He wasn’t against regulation; it was just bad regulation that he couldn’t tolerate. Me too.Read more
From working as an independent expert witness, I know only too well that it is not unusual to find one’s client acting as though nothing the opposing party says can ever be believed. As a mediator, I have seen this attitude taken by both sides simultaneously. Sometimes in a dispute, both sides are inveterate liars. But quite often I would see two parties who were both incapable of seeing that their opponent’s point of view was not built (entirely) on falsehood. It seems that is where we are now with Brexit.Read more
I was disappointed to read recently that the UK has dropped to 40th place in the World Press Freedom Index. Among the 39 countries which are said to offer the press greater freedom than the UK are South Africa, Surinam and Namibia, according to the ranking body Reporters Sans Frontieres. But then I noticed that the UK’s ranking was three places ahead of the USA which guarantees freedom of the press under its constitution. What’s going on here?Read more
When the Thatcher government privatised British Telecom in the 1980s, they created a regulator to cap prices. They did the same with the privatisation of water, electricity and gas. No one suggested then that Thatcher’s policy was Marxist or State intervention. So is there any justification for such accusations now that Theresa May is proposing that the energy regulator should reintroduce a cap?Read more