Labour refuses to say how it will enforce social media policy

lab smp q

On Wednesday, the SKWAWKBOX published an analysis of Labour’s latest social media policy, highlighting both the unarguable validity of its principles and the serious concerns about how it will be applied.

And enforced.

At the beginning of this month, the SKWAWKBOX revealed that Labour’s General Secretary Iain McNicol had issued guidance to staff and officers indicating that trawling Labour members’ social media feeds for disciplinary purposes constitutes a breach of the DPA (Data Protection Act) because, as a ‘Data Controller’ under the Act, it does not have permission from the members to use their data for that purpose.

So the obvious question is this: How will Labour enforce its policy?

Even if we assume that Labour’s largely right-leaning HQ will apply the policy fairly, how can it discipline a member for something said on social media if it can’t legally use what members say on social media?

So we asked Labour how it planned to do it – sending this email to Labour’s press office:

lab smp press 1

The response, when it finally came, was so non-responsive to the question asked that we had to read it twice:

The Labour Party’s rules and procedures are compliant with all areas of UK law, including the Data Protection Act.

Not a word about ‘how’. So we wrote back:

lab smp press 2

Nothing, for almost 24 hours – until we called the press office again to be told:

We won’t be making any further comment.

So there you have it. Labour cannot legally use members’ social media feeds to enforce its social media policy without specific permission from members to do so – which it does not have. The party says it will comply with all law including the DPA – which should mean no repeat of the ‘trawling’ of social media feeds that it used last year to suspend or expel huge numbers of members – and was put under observation by the Information Commissioner’s Office for doing so:

lab smp fb

A social media policy when you can’t legitimately use social media feeds for enforcement is severely problematic.

But Labour’s bureaucracy will not tell its members how it plans to solve this conundrum, leaving them to conduct their social media interactions with no clarity.

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  1. What about NationBuilder (the Labour recommended CLP contact software “volunteer management tool”) storing social media contacts? Is it (now) DPA compliant for the software to do this?

    eg should CLPs (and regions etc) that use NationBuilder unset the default options that gather Twitter user names (who may or may not be Labour members):


    “By default, people who interact with a broadcaster’s Twitter account are automatically imported into your nation. … Automatically import anyone who has mentioned you …”

  2. This whole thing of policies to control freedom of expression is daft.
    I am a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn BUT I am not Jeremy Corbyn. I communicate in my way and I will not have my freedom of speech muzzled by some unenforceable set of rules which I, as a party member, have had no say in their drafting.
    Having been suspended during the “purge” through illegal trawling of social media accounts for, I think, using the word “Traitor” to describe Jess Phillips for her “knife in the front” comment this latest set of guidlines is a farce.
    During the Stasi “purge” of Corbyn supporting members new words were being declared “proscribed” by McNicol and his team of enforcers on a daily basis but not communicated to the membership. So totally undemocratic. So Orwellian. So 1984.
    There is no support from me for any of this nonsense. If this is an attempt to placate the Alt Right of the Labour Party and the MSM and stop abuse it is a joke and is unenforceable.
    Until MPs start behaving respectfully to each other and show restraint in their communications then abuse will continue. They set the context for the organisation and appear to be almost totally unaccountable for their words and actions.
    Hopefully this is not Labour’s first shot in its “War on Abuse” because if it is, it will fail.

  3. Surely if the process by which people were expelled is illegal, then they should be reinstated forthwith. Shouldn’t whoever is responsible for issuing illegal instructions also do the honourable thing and resign?

  4. I would advise all members who have been purged from the Labour Party or spied upon by Iain McNicol’s compliance unit to take full advantage of the new rights of data disclosure that will be made available to them by the replacement of the Data Protection Act by the soon to be implemented General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

    GDPR will be effective as of 25th May 2018.

    As a result of members and purged members using the new rights this regulation affords, it is highly probable that Mr McNicol will be forced to resign from his role as the General Secretary of the Labour Party.

  5. I’d suggest, albeit frivolously, that McNicol can continue to do as he wishes. The sheer level of his Stasi-style transgressions during both leadership campaigns were shocking and unprecedented.

    Yet he remains in post, flexing his muscles and seemingly beyond the law.

    The Information Commissioner rarely presses charges against large, prominent organisations and prefers to hit the small guy in the pocket with large fines. All done to deter other small guys who might step out of line and end up bankrupted.

  6. Perhaps we as members should individually write to Iain McNicol and revoke there use of our data as doing so gives them a very clear instruction should they do so and such a letter stands up in court as well as ICO

  7. I hesitate to dip my toe into the murky world of Labour infighting, but If I’m a Labour member and I post something on Twitter saying that I mildly disagree with some party policy or other and receive a stream of ************ type or “we’ll find you and beat you up” type replies from other, identifiable party members, can I not just print out my Twitter timeline and send it off to HQ with a complaint? Surely that can’t be a breach of the DPA, anymore than passing on old fashioned abusive snail mail is.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. ‘Or am I missing something?’

      Quite a lot, in fact. You – like mcnicol – are bereft of.

      Respectability. Propriety. Intelligence. Perspicacity. Credibility, etc etc.

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