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PM urged to enact ‘David’s law’ against social media abuse after Amess’s death

David’s law

PM urged to enact ‘David’s law’ against social media abuse after Amess’s death

Boris Johnson is facing calls to enact “David’s law” to crack down on social media abuse of public figures and end online anonymity in the wake of the killing of Sir David Amess.

Dozens of MPs paid tribute in the House of Commons on Monday to the veteran Conservative backbencher who was stabbed to death on Friday, shedding tears, sharing uproarious anecdotes and venting anger over his death.

While police are investigating whether there are any links to Islamist extremism and have not connected the killing to the targeting of MPs online, allies of Amess said he had voiced growing concern about threats and toxicity within public discourse as they demanded a crackdown.

Campaigners have warned, however, that ending online anonymity could put whistleblowers and pro-democracy campaigners in authoritarian regimes at risk. Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told the Commons that “civility in politics matters” but “we must not lose sight of the fact that David’s killing was an [alleged] act of terror on the streets of our country”.

Mark Francois, who described Amess as one of his closest friends and his political mentor, vowed he would dedicate his time in parliament to overhauling the rules governing social media.

Francois told the Commons he was “minded to drag Mark Zuckerberg [CEO of Facebook] and Jack Dorsey [CEO of Twitter] to the bar of the house … if necessary kicking and screaming so they can look us all in the eye and account for their actions or rather their inactions that make them even richer than they already are”.

He said MPs should radically toughen up the pending online harms bill to prevent trolls and other abusers hiding behind pseudonyms. “In the last few years David had become increasingly concerned about what he called the toxic environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs, were having to operate in,” Francois said.

“He was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it.”

Francois, the MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, which neighbours Amess’s Southend West constituency, added: “I suggest that if we want to ensure that our colleague didn’t die in vain, we collectively all of us pick up the baton, regardless of our party and take the forthcoming online harms bill and toughen it up markedly.

“Let’s put, if I may be so presumptuous, David’s law on to the statute book, the essence of which would be that while people in public life must remain open to legitimate criticism, they can no longer be vilified or their families subject to the most horrendous abuse, especially from people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity with the connivance of the social media companies for profit.”

Bernard Jenkin said MPs should also examine themselves when discussing civility in politics, a nod to some of the disturbing language used during Brexit debates. “Which of us has never felt fallen prey to feelings of contempt or lack of respect or unkindness towards those who oppose us? Which of us can honestly say we cannot do better?” He said kindness should be added to the seven principles of public life. “Henceforth, let kindness be known as the David Amess principle of public life.”

Amess, an MP for 38 of his 69 years, was stabbed to death while holding his constituency surgery in an Essex church. Ali Harbi Ali, 25, was arrested at the scene and continues to be detained under terrorism laws.

The government intends to pass an online safety bill introducing new obligations on social media companies to regulate illegal and harmful material – though there has been significant controversy over how that can be defined. Compliance will be monitored by Ofcom and the bill is expected to start its passage after pre-legislative scrutiny set to report back in early December.

Paying tribute to “one of the nicest, kindest and most gentle individuals ever to grace these benches”, Johnson said Amess’s killing struck at the heart of the ordinary democratic work of MPs. “That Sir David spent almost 40 years in this house but not one day in ministerial office tells everything about where his priorities lay,” he said.

“He was not a man in awe of this chamber, nor a man who sought patronage or advancement. He simply wanted to serve the people of Essex, first in Basildon, then in Southend. And it was in the act of serving his constituents that he was so cruelly killed.”

Starmer said: “Even as a political opponent he was a man and a politician we could all learn much from. I use that phrase – ‘political opponent’ – very deliberately. Because David held his beliefs passionately but gently. I believe that not only can we learn from that but that we have a duty to do so. Civility in politics matters.”

Starmer spoke to the parents of Jo Cox, the Labour MP murdered by a far-right terrorist in 2016, on Friday, he said. “I knew they would be reliving that terrible day. They said to me they were thinking of David’s family and how their lives would be changed forever,” he said.

Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, also said it was a moment to reflect on political discourse and a “day-to-day brutality with which our political debate is conducted, from increasingly regular death threats to online abuse”. The police team convened after his wife’s murder to investigate threats against MPs found 582 reports of malicious communications and handled 46 cases of harassment between 2016 and 2020, he said. Nine cases were classified as terrorism-related.

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Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Adeleke’s Candidacy

The Supreme Court has affirmed Ademola Adeleke as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the just concluded Osun State Governorship Election.

This has laid to rest the suit filed by Dotun Babayemi, a governorship aspirant of the party who sought the invalidation of Adeleke’s victory.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the five-member panel held that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit after counsel for the appellant, Adebayo Adelodun, withdrew the earlier notice of appeal that was filed within time.

At the resumed hearing, Adelodun, who represented the appellant and Babayemi informed the court that he sought to withdraw the earlier notice of appeal to replace it with the fresh application he filed.

But the panel held that Section 285(11) of the constitution stipulated that an appeal on a pre-election matter must be filed within 14 days from the day of the decision, and that having filed the second appeal out of time, the apex court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Augie, therefore, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Babayemi had asked the court to invalidate the primary election that produced the governor-elect, citing non-compliance with a court order.

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400 Staff To Lose Jobs As BBC Goes Digital

The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC world service has on Thursday disclosed that about 400 of its staff will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme and move to digital platforms,

The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.

In July it detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.

BBC World Service currently operates in 40 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.

But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital-first” made financial sense.

BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.

“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing,” she added.

 

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Environment

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian made landfall at around 15:10 local time (19:10 GMT) on Wednesday, smashing into the coast with wind speeds of up to 241km/h (150mph).

Dramatic scenes saw a hospital roof blown off, cars submerged and trees ripped out of the ground.

The category four hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, Floridians were warned that the most dangerous 24 hours lay ahead and the mayor of Tampa urged people to shelter in place through the night into Thursday morning.

“We are going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 20:00, and they are going to last throughout the night,” Jane Castor said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

In a message posted on Facebook, the Weather Prediction Center told residents in the Central Florida Peninsula to expect “widespread life-threatening, catastrophic flash and urban flooding” continuing into Friday morning, with potentially up to 76cm (30ins) of rain falling locally.

Residents were ordered to leave their homes, but many have decided to remain and seek shelter indoors.

Mark Pritchett, who lives in the city of Venice, some 95km (60 miles) south of Tampa, described the “terrifying” moment he stepped outside his home as the hurricane made its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river,” he said in a text message to the Associated Press news agency.

In Lee County – the south-west region where Ian made landfall – police were prevented from responding to reports of looting at a petrol station because of the storm damage.

As a result, a curfew has been declared “until further notice”.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that the Fort Myers community had “been – to some extent – decimated”. According to news agency AFP, some neighbourhoods in the city of 80,000 had been left resembling lakes.

State Governor Ron DeSantis described Ian as the “biggest flood event” south-west Florida had ever seen, and announced that 7,000 National Guard troops are ready to lead rescue operations in flood zones.

President Joe Biden will receive a briefing on Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ian is now continuing to move north through Florida. Jacksonville International Airport, based in north-east Florida, cancelled all flights scheduled for Thursday.

The storm is forecast to emerge into the Atlantic by Thursday morning.

It is expected to reach Georgia and South Carolina on Friday. Virginia has also joined Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida by declaring a state of emergency.

Cuba’s western coast was hit by Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. Power has now been restored in some areas after the island was plunged into a total blackout. Two people are understood to have been killed in Cuba and more than 20 Cuban migrants are believed to be missing at sea.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 September

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