Tag Archives: Brexit

Int’l committee calls for pause on false political ads online

An international “grand committee” of lawmakers called on Thursday for a pause on online micro-targeted political ads with false or misleading information until the area is regulated.

The committee, formed to investigate disinformation, gathered in Dublin to hear evidence from Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google and other experts about online harms, hate speech and electoral interference. The meeting was attended by lawmakers from Australia, Finland, Estonia, Georgia, Singapore, the UK and United States.

The committee’s inaugural session in London last November featured an empty chair for Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg after he declined to be questioned.

Facebook has been under scrutiny in recent weeks over its decision to not fact-check ads run by politicians, which intensified when rival Twitter announced last month that it would ban all political ads.

Zuckerberg has defended this policy, saying that the company does not want to stifle political speech.

Politicians can micro-target groups of voters on social media based on user data such as location, age and interests, a practice critics fear could intensify the effects of false or misleading information on certain groups and suppress voter turnout.

At a conference in Lisbon on Thursday, Europe’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said, “If it’s only in your feed, between you and Facebook, and their micro-targeting of who you are, that’s not democracy anymore.”

Facebook said on Thursday a doctored video shared by Britain’s governing Conservatives would not have broken its rules on political advertising if it had run as a paid-for ad.

“Ads from political parties and political candidates are not subject to our fact-checking rules,” Rebecca Stimson, Facebook’s head of UK Public Policy, told reporters on a call to explain the company’s policies ahead of Britain’s Dec. 12 election.

“What that has meant is what the Conservative party put in that advert has been the subject of ferocious public debate and discussion, precisely because people could see that it was there,” Stimson said.

Facebook partners with global third-party fact-checking organizations to curb misinformation on the site.

Ahead of an election that could shape the fate of Brexit, some politicians have expressed concerns that misleading information could spread swiftly across social media.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s party chairman was forced to defend the distribution of a doctored video clip of a rival Labour Party politician on Wednesday, overshadowing the launch of the party’s election campaign.

Johnson’s Conservatives posted the heavily edited video clip of Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer on Facebook and Twitter, editing out a key response in an interview to give the impression that the party had no answer for Brexit.

The video was shared as a normal post on the Conservatives’ Facebook page, but has not been used as a paid-for ad on the platform, according to a search of Facebook’s Ad Library, a database launched to increase political ad transparency.

REUTERS

HSBC to cut up to 10,000 jobs worldwide in drive to slash costs – FT

HSBC Holdings Plc is planning to cut up to 10,000 jobs, more than 4% of its workforce, as interim Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn seeks to reduce costs across the banking group, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

The plan represents the lender’s most ambitious attempt in years to cut costs, the newspaper said citing two people briefed on the matter. It said the cuts will focus mainly on high-paid roles.

HSBC declined to comment on the FT report.

The bank had 237,685 full-time employees at the end of June 2019, according to its 2019 interim report.

HSBC could announce the beginning of the latest cost-cutting drive and job cuts when it reports third-quarter results later this month, the FT said, citing one person briefed on the matter.

Quinn became interim CEO in August after the bank announced the surprise departure of John Flint, saying it needed a change at the top to address “a challenging global environment.”

Flint’s exit was a result of differences of opinion with chairman Mark Tucker over topics including approaches to cutting expenses, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters in August.

Any job cuts implemented as part of the latest plan would come on top of the redundancies announced earlier, the FT said.

HSBC said it would be laying off about 4,000 people this year, and issued a gloomier business outlook due to an escalation of a trade war between China and the United States, an easing monetary policy cycle, unrest in its key Hong Kong market and Brexit.

Former HSBC Group CEO Stuart Gulliver announced plans to cut 30,000 jobs when he took the job in 2011 as part of a program to cut $3.5 billion in costs over three years and raise the bank’s return on equity to 12-15%.

British protesters call Johnson Trump’s puppet in nationwide protests

Boris Johnson UK Prime Minister

Hundreds of people blocked London’s normally busy Whitehall road on Saturday to protest Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of the British parliament.

They gathered outside the gates protecting the prime minister’s London residence at 10 Downing Street and chanted “Boris Johnson, shame on you,” “Trump’s puppet, shame on you,” “Liar Johnson, shame on you,” the Press Association (PA) reports.

The protesters also rang a bell, blew whistles and beat a drum, PA reported, adding that they carried placards and European Union flags.

A small crowd gathered in Belfast, more than 1,000 gathered in York and 1,000 in Manchester, according to PA.

Organizers had been expecting hundreds of thousands of people to turn out in London, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich, Oxford and York, among other cities, and in Aberdeen and Glasgow in Scotland, as well as Belfast.

The anti-Brexit initiative “Another Europe Is Possible” had issued the call to protest.

It was joined by, among others, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour grassroots organization Momentum and environmental activists from the YouthStrike4Climate campaign.

Johnson on Wednesday successfully petitioned Queen Elizabeth II to prorogue, or suspend, parliament in London from mid-September to mid-October, when he plans to submit his government programme in a new parliamentary session.

“The public outrage at Boris Johnson shutting down democracy has been deafening,” Labour leader Corbyn tweeted on Friday. “People are right to take to the streets – and I encourage everyone to join the demonstrations in London and across the country tomorrow.”

Corbyn did not seem to have turned up on Saturday, but his colleague and shadow home secretary Diana Abbott addressed the crowd in Whitehall, saying that he sent his support for the demonstration.

“We cannot allow Boris Johnson to shut down parliament and to shut down the voice of ordinary British people,” PA quoted her as saying.

Many in the crowd shouted “Where is Jeremy?” PA reported.

Parliament is in fact routinely prorogued, but the move is highly controversial shortly before Britain’s planned exit from the European Union by the deadline of Oct. 31.

The suspension has greatly shortened the time in which members of parliament could debate possible legislative procedures to prevent Brexit happening without a deal.

Brexit roils UK: PM wants to shut Parliament, Queen stays neutral, Labour kicks

Boris Johnson UK PM
Photo credit: AP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson maneuvered Wednesday to give his political opponents even less time to block a no-deal Brexit before the Oct. 31 withdrawal deadline, winning Queen Elizabeth II’s approval to suspend Parliament. His critics were outraged.

Though Johnson previously had refused to rule out such a move, the timing of the decision took lawmakers — many of whom are on vacation — by surprise.

Lawmakers reacted with fury, including John Bercow, speaker of the lower House of Commons, who was not told in advance of Johnson’s plan.

“Shutting down Parliament would be an offense against the democratic process and the rights of parliamentarians as the people’s elected representatives,” Bercow said. “Surely at this early stage in his premiership, the prime minister should be seeking to establish rather than undermine his democratic credentials and indeed his commitment to Parliamentary democracy.”

The main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the queen to protest “in the strongest possible terms on behalf of my party and I believe all the other opposition parties are going to join in with this.”

But the monarch declined to get involved, in keeping with her steadfast refusal to interfere in politics. As head of state, she is politically neutral and acts on the advice of her government in political matters.

The House of Commons will convene from Sept. 3-10 and then was scheduled to go on a break until Oct. 9 — though lawmakers had suggested they might cancel that break and stay in session because of the national crisis. But Johnson said he has decided to ask the queen to give her speech that outlines the government’s legislative agenda on Oct. 14.

Since Parliament is normally suspended before her speech, the decision means opposition lawmakers would be unlikely to have enough time to pass laws blocking the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union without a negotiated deal on Oct. 31.

The pound plunged on the news, down to $1.2196 from almost $1.2300 the previous day.

The EU is adamant that it will not renegotiate the agreement struck with former Prime Minister Theresa May on the terms of Britain’s departure and the framework of future relations. Without such a deal, Britain faces a chaotic Brexit that economists warn would disrupt trade by imposing tariffs and customs checks between Britain and the bloc, send the value of the pound plummeting and plunge the U.K. into recession.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: “Make no mistake, this is a very British coup.”

“Whatever one’s views on Brexit, once you allow a Prime Minister to prevent the full and free operation of our democratic institutions you are on a very precarious path,” he said.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit official, called Johnson’s move “sinister.”

“As a fellow parliamentarian, my solidarity with those fighting for their voices to be heard,” he tweeted. “Suppressing debate on profound choices is unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU-UK relationship.”

On Tuesday, opposition lawmakers declared that they would work together to try to stop a departure from the EU without an agreement, setting up a legislative challenge to Johnson and his promise to complete the divorce by Oct. 31.

Some 160 lawmakers have signed a declaration pledging “to do whatever is necessary” to prevent Johnson from bypassing Parliament in his plans.

Johnson has told EU officials it won’t be possible to agree a deal on Britain’s departure from the bloc without the removal of controversial language on a “backstop,” aimed at avoiding the return of a border between EU member Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland. He said at the close of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Monday that he was “marginally more optimistic,” of progress.

Scott Lucas, a professor of international politics at the University of Birmingham, said Johnson’s maneuver touched off the biggest crisis since the abdication of King Edward VIII to marry the divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson.

“This is biggest constitutional crisis since the 1930s,” Lucas said. “Even World War II didn’t present a constitutional crisis because the coalition government and Parliament agreed the rules of the game.”

It’s also a potential economic crisis because of the projected drop in GDP, he added. AP

 

 

Brits stockpile food worth £4 billion amid no-deal Brexit

Boris Johnson UK Prime Minister

British people have hoarded goods worth £4 billion (about $4.8 billion) amid fears of a no-deal Brexit, according to a report released on Monday.

Almost one in five respondents to a survey of 1,052 people have begun to increase their stockpiles of food, drinks or medicines, financial services provider Premium Credit said.

According to the survey, 74 per cent of respondents said they were stockpiling food, 50 per cent said they stored pharmaceutical products, and 46 per cent were stockpiling drinks.

Many experts have predicted that a British exit from the European Union (EU) without a comprehensive deal could result in temporary supply bottlenecks, mainly caused by long waiting times for trucks at customs controls.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he wants to lead Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal.

He demands that Brussels abandon elements of the existing withdrawal deal agreed by his predecessor, Theresa May.

The EU has rejected this.

Many companies also fear supply bottlenecks.

Last week, for example, British pizza chain Domino’s announced that it would increase its inventories.

About a third of its ingredients are sourced from abroad, including tomato sauce and toppings like pineapple.dpa/NAN