The war on my screen and in my head and in my heart

A wooden ceremonial mace carved with Ukrainian folk designs

Like most of you, I’ve spent the past week riveted to the TV and to social media, following the war on Ukraine.

For me, the war touches me on many levels. I actually started my working life, after university, in what was then post-Soviet cultural diplomacy, mainly dealing with Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, and my undergraduate degree was preparation for what I thought would be a foreign service career in Russia and Eastern Europe. (Real life, and the internet, got in the way.)

On top of that, despite being an ex-American Scot, my ethnic composition is 25% Ukrainian and 25% Polish, and I grew up with those cultural influences in my brain and in my belly (yum).

So this course of events is especially surreal for me, as I see my entire life flash before my eyes. Read More

A peek behind a dark curtain

Professionalism / UK policy
An empty 1920s theatre, from the view of the stage

A funny thing happened during my recent spell between jobs. As with anyone on a job search, I received a few offers which weren’t quite on the level. None of them merited any interest from me, much less the courtesy of a response; no jobseeker is under any obligation to respond to timewasters. But there was one bizarre offer which did serve a purpose: it gave me a peek into a dark room. Read More

Why the “Nick Clegg Law” is saying the quiet part out loud

UK policy
A locked hiding place I spotted hidden in a forest. I wonder who has the key.

The UK’s post-Brexit online regulation debate is a war of words. To make the UK the “safest place in the world to be online” – or is that safer? – the tone, intention, nuance, and subtlety of what we are saying, and who we are saying it to, is as much on the table as the content of what we say itself.

But that works two ways. What government says about its legislative programme is as much about its tone, intention, nuance, and subtlety, as the content of the draft regulations themselves.

And that’s why a recent change in the messaging which government is using to discuss its draft Online Safety Bill is the most terrifying development I’ve seen in the three years I’ve been dealing with it. Read More

The #WildWestWeb fallacy isn’t about ending online harms. It’s about enabling populism.

UK policy

I‘ve spoken with you in the past, dear readers, about the “wild west web” fallacy: the trope which holds that the Internet is the land of the lawless where anything goes and no-one is safe. The trope implies that we are all helpless villagers at the mercy of the bad guys, if we’re not the bad guys ourselves. And the trope implies that we helpless villagers need a swashbuckling sheriff to ride into town and save the day.

We’ve also spoken about how that’s all a load of shite. Read More

Yes, the Online Safety Bill is the most Conservative law yet. Here’s why.

UK policy
Photo by me - the Palace of Westminster from Portcullis House, June 2018

In the now three years (wtaf?) that the UK’s Online Safety Bill has been on my professional horizon, there has been one comment that I’ve heard from people across the board at every stage, from green paper to white paper to draft regulation to committee review to this very week.

That comment, however it’s worded, and whomever it comes from, goes a bit like this:

How is this a Conservative piece of legislation? I can’t believe this is a Conservative proposal. This is the most un-Conservative thing ever.

Nope. You’re wrong. Read More

The speculative fiction novel I want to read this year

Some of 2021's reads

If you work in tech policy and you don’t have a shelf full of speculative fiction, you’re doing the job wrong. It’s writers and authors, not lawyers and academics, who truly understand how technology and policy interact. The scenarios they imagine show us where technology might lead, and how the decisions we make about the uses of that technology might hasten the journey.

For better and for worse. Read More