EYE Review 2016: Reclaim the Internet

This year EYEcovered Labour’s campaign against thought crime in quite some detail, so it seemed appropriate to mark it’s first anniversary by reaching out and asking their team what they have in store for 2017.


If you’re unfamiliar with the campaign EYEhas updated a handy overview elsewhere but Spiked’s ever brilliant Ella Whelan has summed it up much more succinctly than EYEever could…

What Recl@im is really saying is, ‘Free speech for us, but not for people we don’t like’. In other words, in the interest of protecting free speech, we must limit it. This campaign couldn’t be more Orwellian if it tried. Ella Whelan – Spiked

After a false start last Winter, the Campaign briefly hit it’s stride in late spring, collaborating with the Guardian to promote a vision of the sort of Web That THEY Want and launching their own crowd sourcing ideas platform aimed at identifying new policies and actions to stop internet abuse.

Roundtable to launch the campaign.
Roundtable to launch the campaign.

This culminated in a small summer conference where a ‘cross party coalition’ of backbench feminist MPs were joined by teachers, girl guides and tech companies to discuss what ‘internet abuse’ means to them.

Fortuitous timing also meant that Yvette Cooper was able used the platform to attack Labour’s momentum movement and argue that the man who beat her to the leadership post hadn’t done enough to protect his female colleagues from online threats and misogynistic / racist abuse by their own members.

But confusingly their DEMOS commissioned research found more evidence of abusive behaviour from girls than boys and the most ‘abused’ ‘victim’ over the three week period turned out to be a potty mouth rap star who had just been kicked off twitter for her racist and homophobic taunts.


And then apart from a few tweets in October attempting to stake a claim on the new CPS guidelines, that essentially has been that.

Their website has been untouched since the summer, their twitter account stalled at well below 2,000 followers and the plug was (literally) pulled on the ideas platform soon after it became clear that most of the hundred odd people that took part were actually quite critical or dubious of their intentions..

If there were any learning moments or ideas captured during it’s life time it seems that no one attached to ‘Recl@im’ and / or Yvette Cooper’s Constituency Office is aware of them.  EYEenquired about outcomes in general but all they could tell me was that the Recl@im’s project manager had moved on and they were hoping to reappoint in the new year.

Interestingly if you’d like to apply (contrary to Equality & Human Rights Commission guidelines) the best way of finding details about the vacancy is to friend Yvette on facebook…

Meanwhile, Jo Swinson, who was the Liberal Democrat’s ‘coalition’ representative, acknowledged that she has had very little hands on involvement over the year but reckoned that the campaign had succeeded in ‘developing conversations with some of the key players that have a role to play’ and that ‘there have been some encouraging signs [about] the importance enforcing ofcommunity standards.’

Some may conclude that the initiative has been something of a damp squib then but EYEsuspect that those involved will feel that they have more than achieved year one objectives.

Not only has it provided a positive public profile platform for Cooper and a few fellow feminist politicians who have fallen out of favour within their own respective parties.

But given the dubious and extremely one sided narrative they have pushed, the campaign has managed to generate a not insignificant amount of largely uncritical media coverage and consequently convinced a lot of people that we need significant state intervention to protect girl guides and lady politicians from virtual torrents of virtual harassment.

Most significantly in partnership with Labour’s London Mayor’s Office, the Metropolitan Police have announced a two million pound online  experimental ‘hate crime hub’ that critics quickly dubbed the thought police.

The team will identify the location of crimes and allocate them to the appropriate force. They will also aim to develop links with volunteers who will report both criminal and non-criminal online hate incidents.

A key element of this programme is the delivery of the community hub element, which will work with volunteers to identify, report and challenge online hate material. In order to ensure delivery this requires community volunteers who are skilled in the use of social media and able to both identify and appropriately respond to inappropriate content in the online environment to build the counter-narrative. Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor, Policing and Crime

If you’re interested in working for the community hub element a vacancy has just opened up in Ms Cooper’s neck of the woods.

Hopefully someone involved will eventually have the decency to recognise that some of the abuse claims they have highlighted to date are extremely dubious and that they might actually have to take some responsibility themselves for scaring girl guides off the internet.

But while we wait for Yvette to decide if the campaign has served it’s purpose EYEwill leave Ella to have the last word on their story so far…

At this point, everyone knows that Twitter is a hotbed of kneejerkers and troublemakers. If you don’t like it, stay away from it. There is no social obligation to tweet. We should also defend the right to get angry; the freedom, that is, to let a few expletives end a boring online argument. Do we really want to take the emotion out of public discussion for the sake of a few hurt feelings? Ella Whellan



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