Tag Archives: liberty

Has social media compromised liberty?

Do we lose the right to privacy when we involve ourselves in social media? The obvious answer to this question is “of course not” and that should be the case, but is it?

Facebook, a business that started around 2004, has announced it has over half of all internet users in the world on it; in six years Twitter had over 100 million users. Recently, the US State Department asked Twitter not to carry out regular maintenance during the recent demonstrations in Iran as information was being disseminated through Twitter. A similar use was made of Facebook during the uprising in Egypt. Social media platforms on the face of it can be a profoundly pro-liberty force. John Stuart Mill wrote about liberty as freedom not only from coercion by the government but also from the constraints of social conventions, so is social media the answer?

Unfortunately, social media companies focus really on advertising. Google, for example, generates 23% of all US advertising revenue, more than twice that of all print media. The ever-increasing user base of social networking sites tends to require your name, date of birth, and in many cases education and employment details. Many identity thieves tend to hack their victim’s email accounts by simply using the personal information available from such sites and, for example, use the “Forget Password” facility or get access using spyware. Selling data to advertisers is lucrative and this is being done by social media companies and unscrupulous people.

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20 years on from the “Bolton Seven” case

On 12th January 1998 seven men from Bolton were convicted under sexual offences legislation that clearly discriminated between gay sex and heterosexual sex.

I phoned the office of Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Evan Harris, to alert him to the plight of these men and he agreed to help their cause. Evan tabled Early Day Motion 117 and questioned the Attorney General to raise the plight of these men in Parliament.

Early day motion 717
SEXUAL OFFENCES LAW
• Session: 1997-98
• Date tabled: 02.02.1998
• Primary sponsor: Harris, Evan
That this House notes with grave concern the case of the Bolton 7 who were convicted following private, consenting, victimless homosexual behaviour; notes that the prosecution was brought under the age of consent legislation found to be a breach of basic human rights by the European Commission of Human Rights and under the ban on homosexual relations involving the participation or presence of more than two persons (section 1 of the Sexual Offences Act 1967), which violates Article 8 of the ECHR – the right to privacy; notes that the 1956 and 1967 Sexual Offences Acts unfairly discriminate against homosexuals; calls for equalisation of treatment of homosexuals and heterosexuals under the criminal law; and, in the light of the Government’s decision to give the House a free vote on the age of consent and not to contest the ECHR ruling, calls for the police and Crown Prosecution Service to use their discretion and suspend prosecutions under the gay age of consent legislation until Parliament has reconsidered; and believes that custodial sentences in the case of the Bolton 7 and other such cases of consenting homosexual behaviour are not in the public interest nor in the interests of justice.

The Liberal Democrats were not alone in raising the plight of these men, Outrage ran a major national campaign and Amnesty International stated that were the men to be imprisoned they would be declared prisoners of conscience. These campaigns may well be the reason why the men did not receive custodial sentences, although three of them had their names added to the sexual offences register.

In 2000, six of the men appealed to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecutions against them had violated their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by interfering with ‘the right to respect for a private family life’ enshrined in article 8 of the Convention. They were subsequently awarded compensation.

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LibLink: Brian Paddick: If we value our national security, we will avoid a hard Brexit

A couple of days before Theresa May’s ill-judged ultimatum in her Article 50 letter over trade and security, Brian Paddick wrote for the Guardian about how hard Brexit could damage our security. That’s right. If Theresa May gets her way, we will be less safe.

He started off by talking about last week’s attack at Westminster in which 4 people, PC Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Leslie Rhodes and Kurt Cochran were murdered. How do we balance the need to keep Parliament accessible with the safety of those in and around it?

That security must be balanced with an obligation to keep parliament open to the people. We shouldn’t turn Westminster into Fort Knox, even if such a thing were possible. But we can improve security, for politicians, staff and, crucially, police on the frontline.

Those officers are not armed. Armed support is a distance away. No one wants an ostentatious display of force, which would only increase that sense of alienation many feel about “Westminster”. But this attack shows, alas, that armed officers should be directly behind that frontline. Otherwise lives will be lost that could be saved. In this attack, I gather, it was only because a minister’s armed close protection officer happened to be close by that the assailant was stopped.

While millions are spent on surveillance powers and the security services, over the past six years £1bn has been cut from the Metropolitan police budget. That’s huge.

He went on to talk about how a hard Brexit could compromise our security effort both in cost and co-operation. 

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Show me yours – and Labour doesn’t care

As the Snoopers’ Charter, sorry Investigatory Powers Bill, starts its final stage in the Lords today, have a look at this video from Liberty which gets over the intrusive nature of this illiberal measure.

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Scratch and sniff: The reek or alluring scent of our values

The medium is the message. So often as people it’s not so much what we do as how we do it, that leaves the greater impression.

The passive aggressive person makes you regret asking even when they help you. So it is important to reflect not just on are we doing the right thing but are we doing it in the best way.

As Liberal Democrats we signed up to three core values Liberty, Equality and Community – how are we building these or indeed communicating these values? The twist is that most people prefer to talk about real things they can …

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Who are your human rights heroes?

Liberty is looking for nominations for its 2015 Human Rights Awards.

Here’s what you need to do by 5pm tonight:

We’re looking for the NGOs, the national campaigners, the local activists, the volunteers or professionals who are working on human rights issues – whether it be inspiring or organising, providing support or challenging misconceptions. Often individuals and organisations work tirelessly and with little recognition – this is our chance to thanks them for all they do, and shine a light on this crucial work.

Past award categories have included Human Rights Lawyer of the Year, Human Rights Young Person of the Year, and our ‘Close to Home’ award, which acknowledges those who battle for the rights and freedoms of their own families, streets and communities. These categories are not fixed so please nominate anyone you believe deserves recognition for their work to protect, promote or broaden understanding of human rights.

Who is eligible?

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LibLink: Tom Brake – The Human Rights Act

Over at the party website, Tom Brake has been writing about the importance of the Human Rights Act. The Tories may have apparently watered down planned action to repeal it but they are absolutely desperate to do so. The last thing we should be doing is letting up our campaign to convince the public about the need for the protections the ECHR and Human Rights Act provide.

He outlines some of the people who have been helped by the HRA.

Take for example, 90-year-olds Richard and Beryl Driscoll. They lived together for more than 65 years until, in 2006, he was moved into a residential care home.

He could not walk unaided and she was blind. She relied on her husband as her eyes and he relied on her for his mobility.

They wanted to remain together but the council said it wasn’t possible to accommodate them in the same nursing home.

But thanks to a campaign that argued their treatment breached their human rights – specifically their right to a family life – the council were forced to back down and they were reunited.

It’s difficult to believe that, without the protection afforded to them by the HRA, there would have been a happy ending.

The same is true in Europe too. Up until 2004, it was possible for two gay men to be prosecuted for having sex if one was aged 16 or 17, even though it was legal for heterosexual couples.

This blatant unfairness was only removed as a result of an ECHR ruling, one the right to a private life, a clause that causes heartless Tories such distress.

And, in 2002, a male-to-female transsexual – asked Strasbourg to determine whether there had been a violation of her right to respect and family life.

Why? Because Britain did not legally recognise her changed gender and did not let her marry. Her victory was a huge step forward in the battle for trans-equality in this country.

Our current human rights legislation has also blocked blanket interception of private messages by the state, protected our right to a fair trial and prevented indiscriminate police stop-and-search.

You can read the whole article here.

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European Arrest Warrant: I’m a sceptic (but not a Eurosceptic)

As I write, the House of Commons is debating the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

Well, sort of. In fact, the Speaker, John Bercow, has already pointed out that “there will not today be a vote on the specific matter of membership of the European arrest warrant”. But Home Secretary Theresa May and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling say there will. In the Tories’ Alice in Wonderland world, when they use the word vote it means just what they choose it to mean, neither more nor less.

As with any debate involving Europe, there is a danger of it being used as …

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Opinion: Kippers’ squeals show we are a more liberal country

UKIP logoPoor judgment: that’s the reason UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson has given for referring to a Thai-born supporter as “ting tong from somewhere”. I was “completely tired out”: that’s how Farage explained his statement during the European election campaign that he’d be concerned if Romanians moved in next door. Excuses, excuses.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever consider whether or not to use a racial epithet. I don’t think to myself, on balance I judge it right to refer to that person as …

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Calling all writers – two essay competitions on liberalism and liberty coming up soon

We bring you news of two essay competitions which may have escaped your attention.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 06.31.09CentreForum marks the 10th anniversary of the Orange Book

Can you believe it’s 10 years since the Orange Book? That publication is celebrated by some, reviled by others within the Liberal Democrats. It can never be accused of being boring though. It stimulated one of the biggest policy debates in the history of the party. It was also much maligned as some sort of right wing credo but people forget that Steve Webb wrote for …

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The Independent View: Removing the ‘right to have rights’

LibertyWhile the Commons grappled with the latest wave of backbench Euroscepticism, quietly and without fanfare the Home Secretary introduced an amendment to the Immigration Bill which strikes at the heart of our national conscience.

The impetus for this power came not from the urgent necessity of fighting terrorism, but is rather the result of a six year legal battle. In October last year, the Supreme Court held that the executive could not remove British nationality from an individual where to do so would render him stateless.  A frustrated Home Secretary now seeks a broad, discretionary power to remove what Hannah Arendt so memorably described as “the right to have rights”.

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Sexual Risk orders: something liberals should be worried about?

Over the next two days, the Commons will complete its debates on the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. Liberty have already expressed concern about some of the measures within it:

The Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill proposes to replace existing orders (such as ASBOs) with a new  generation of injunctions which are easier to obtain, harder to comply with and have harsher penalties. The Bill would also introduce unfair double punishment for the vulnerable, as social tenants and their families will face mandatory eviction for breaching a term of an injunction. Other measures in the Bill include some

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Do Liberty want rid of their Liberal Democrat members?

I have spent the last few months campaigning hard against secret courts. That’s in no small measure down to the energetic and informative campaign against Part II of the Justice and Security Bill run by Jo Shaw and Martin Tod.

On two occasions, Liberal Democrat Conference has overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s plans. Hundreds of us signed a petition and wrote to MPs and Lords. I don’t intend giving up until this measure is consigned to the dustbin. If it passes into law, I will campaign against it until it’s repealed.  Is that a good enough statement of intent?

I am hopping mad …

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Opinion: The Arab Spring – a liberal paradox?

What should a liberal make of the Arab Spring as it becomes a bloody winter? The recent wave of violent protest at a mindlessly Islamophobic YouTube video is not an isolated incident. In Tunisia in June, hardline Salafists attacked an art gallery and a trade union office. Since Egypt’s revolution there have been regular attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. An Islamist-dominated panel reviewing Egypt’s constitution is likely to water down women’s rights, making child marriage easier and withdrawing from international conventions protecting women and children(£). Husni Mubarak, Egypt’s former President, must be wailing “I told you so” …

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Opinion: Lib Dems need to wake up to drastic implications of legal aid cuts

Lib Dem Voice last week featured a brief post on the Coalition’s plans for legal aid reform. But this is an important change that’s been passed with barely a murmur from any Lib Dem MPs, when in fact it strikes at a principle at the heart of the party – civil liberties.

The bill in which this change is contained, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, is currently making its way through the House of Commons. For something that will have fairly drastic effects on many people’s access to justice there has been relatively little talk …

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The Independent View: Social media – no longer an easy target

Open Rights Group, alongside 9 other human right groups including Amnesty UK, Liberty and Index on Censorship, yesterday wrote to the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Theresa May MP. We were responding to the Prime Minister’s comments that the Government will “look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality”.

The letter was written to coincide with a meeting that took place at lunchtime yesterday between the Home Secretary and Twitter, Facebook and Research in Motion, to discuss what that …

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Julian Huppert MP writes: It’s time to bail out TPIMs

Labour’s approach to dealing with the threat of terrorism was illiberal and ineffective. The regime they built was topped off by control orders, which remain one of the most odious elements of their legacy. These orders totally bypassed due legal process, establishing a bewildering clandestine world of secret evidence, special advocates and draconian restrictions that would have made Kafka blush.

The irony was that all this authoritarian paraphernalia, which did great damage to civil liberties many of us had previously taken for granted, failed utterly to achieve its intended purpose. Not a single person subject to a control order has ever …

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Government consults over ending 28 days pre-charge detention and control orders

Following on from the welcome news of the review into ending Labour’s policy of detaining children for immigration purposes, yesterday a wide-ranging review into anti-terrorism measures was announced. (It’s a review that I of course have rather an interest in.)

Liberty’s take on the review is:

Help us end 28 day detention

Pre-charge detention refers to the length of time you can be locked up and questioned before you face a charge. In that time you may be unaware of what you are accused of, and unable to challenge the evidence against you. The current period for terror suspects is 28

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Opinion: Healthy scepticism alive and well among Liberty’s ranks

At the weekend Liberty held its AGM. Jo Shaw was there…

We are, as our esteemed director, Shami Chakrabarti said on Saturday “a gobby lot”. In that, the Liberty membership share much in common with the membership of the Lib Dems. Both share a tradition of being unwilling to shut up, of asking difficult questions and not necessarily toeing the line which might be expected or helpful for the leadership.

Liberty was formed 76 years ago in response to police brutality against protestors against hunger and unemployment. Police tactics at demonstrations and the politics of dissent are currently high in …

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[email protected]: Nick Clegg – Governments that can’t be scrutinised will always turn oppressive

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg’s speech to celebrate the 75th anniversay of Liberty is excerpted over at the Independent. Here’s his sombre conclusion:

for all the complaining Liberal Democrats and other liberty campaigners do about the misuse of power by government, the truth is, nowhere near all of the powers available to police and government are used – yet. Legal instruments with devastating potential are ready and waiting, all of which have been passed by a supine Parliament that misguidedly assumes government will always be benign. These powers are like the silent machines in a darkened factory, waiting for the

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