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Can social justice make a comeback?

March 27, 2018

 

I’ve been on my travels again but still managed to keep up with events via the news feeds.

 

A little bit of unintended irony involved there, I guess - given all the current sinister revelations about what you can believe (or not) on social media.

 

You’ve probably heard how uber data-wrangling outfit Cambridge Analytica is accused of grabbing masses of personal data gathered from a 2014 Facebook quiz. This information was allegedly used to colour opinions during the last US presidential election and EU referendum.

 

Dominic Cummings of Vote Leave dismissed the idea, insisting that allegations published in the Observer are "factually wrong” and “nonsensical". Of course, this is pretty much describes the promises plastered on the side of his big red bus.

 

We like to think that our web surfing is protected one-way traffic. I'm sure the cool dude billionaires running the social networks want to keep up that same perception. And yet the personalised pop-up adverts that appeared on my tablet  - and narrowed down my location while I was abroad - all showed that the algorithms are working admirably.

 

But let’s be blunt, if we opt to share our whereabouts and whatnot on sundry apps then we shouldn’t act all surprised when that info is put to commercial use. I mean, anyone would think that we don't actually read the eighty-something pages of user terms and conditions.

 

On that point of knowing what's what, I was astounded that one or two tabloids got so outraged at the prospect of blue passports being printed abroad because it’s cheaper. Surely they - and their offshore-domiciled owners - know what a free trade arrangement outside the Single Market actually means.

 

If the uproar was intended to cause Downing Street some discomfort then it was short-lived. A quite different Brexit controversy meant media attention quickly switched to the sacking of Owen Smith by Jeremy Corbyn for stepping out of line over a second referendum.

 

Critical colleagues described the Labour leader’s prompt action as “poor judgement” although my take is that this accolade should go to the former and un-lamented shadow front-bencher.

 

In other news, those who suspect the UK is a barely disguised police state got their confirmation as the Met finally admitted Special Branch officers had passed on names to a group behind the blacklisting of trade-unionist construction workers.

 

If your view is that publicising this information demonstrates an official openness in such matters then you don’t know about the six-year battle legal battle which came first and saw the UNITE union gain £10m in compensation for victims.

 

There will now be a public enquiry into how workers were penalised. That’s more than we can say about other aspects of the industry. I read that the accountancy firm tasked with salvaging money from the defunct construction giant Carillion (on behalf of creditors and pensioners) has racked up a £20.4m bill in just eight weeks. Nice work if you can get it.

 

It’s just as well that we have people like Carolyn Harris on our side. The campaigning Swansea East MP looks likely to have notched up a double success. The first is a clampdown of fixed odds betting machines – described as the ‘crack cocaine’ of the gambling world. The other is in gaining government backing for her call for free child burial fees.

 

Whisper it softly, but social justice might be making a modest comeback.

 

 

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