A strange – and for some, troubling – website has appeared since the Westminster ‘sex pest’ scandal began to break:
The website claims that:
This project seeks to enable women to share their stories anonymously so that we can build a compendium of the types of abuse women face which all too often are unseen, ignored or swept under the carpet.
and that the project was:
germinated by women who love the Labour Party and work hard within it, but who know it has to be better.
It comes complete with a form inviting visitors to the site to submit the details of their alleged experiences – but requires no personal information, so it could be used by anyone to submit anything, without any means of verifying or investigating what is submitted.
It’s anonymity, but not as we know it
The site makes reassuring noises about not submitting any personal information and says it will edit out any identifying information submitted inadvertently.
However, the response page specifically asks respondents to provide:
- their age bracket
- their location
- details of positions they hold in the party
- the position of the harasser(s)/abuser(s)
- whether the experience was reported and the outcome if so
- “Anything else you want to tell us!”
Making the possibility of someone being able to identify, or at least narrow down the identity of, the person submitting the information and the person they are reporting far higher.
But those sending information are not the only anonymous ones. The site claims to be run by Labour members:
and, in its banner header, that it these are all female:
However, it refuses to identify any of the people involved, claiming that this is because it’s such a sensitive and difficult area:
So the ‘team’ is asking you to take this on trust because – well, because it says so.
But with nobody willing to identify herself – or himself – as part of this ‘team’, it could be anyone asking you to share the most intimate details of your potentially deeply traumatic experiences.
The Guardian carried an anonymous article by someone claiming to represent LabourToo, stating that the author is a female Labour councillor who wishes to remain anonymous.
Possibly, though without any further information the status and political allegiance of the author are unverifiable. But LabourToo claims to be a ‘team’. Other members of the team are even less identifiable. They could be.
- Tory functionaries or politicians
- The S*n or similar right-wing rag looking for lurid headlines and political ammunition – after all, opponents of Jeremy Corbyn within the Labour Party have shown few qualms about involving the S*n in attempts to undermine him, so political motivations for establishing this site cannot be ruled out
- literally anyone else in the world with the ability to be part of a ‘team’
Not only that, but the site specifically states that it is not affiliated with the Labour Party and will not pass on information for investigation:
The site also says it is not about ‘outing people’, so it has no ambitions to bring any genuine perpetrators to book.
So, if you have been abused, harassed or discriminated against, if you want that to be investigated properly, you have to report that to the Party – or the police or both. But ‘LabourToo’ wants your details for unknown purposes.
It claims it will use that information, anonymised, in a report to Parliament. But since you don’t know who is promising to submit the report, you have no way of knowing whether that will ever happen – or whom to pursue if it doesn’t.
The site also offers a ‘confidentiality statement’ promising ‘we.. will do everything we can to keep your information confidential‘ and provides an email address to write to if you have any complaints. But who’s making the promise or reading the emails? Again, no way to know.
In spite of the evidently worrying aspects of LabourToo, it has been treated as credible by the LabourList website, which gave it a platform for an article repeating its claims. The byline is simply ‘LabourToo’, so there is even less information than is provided on the Guardian article.
The SKWAWKBOX contacted LabourList’s editor by phone to ask whether he had verified the identity of the people behind LabourToo before publishing their article.
After refusing to answer the question over the phone, the editor sent an email asserting that he does know the identity of the people behind LabourToo and had known it before publication, as well as providing the copy to the Labour Party with a chance to respond (which we hadn’t asked).
No response has yet been provided to our follow-up question about why that answer couldn’t be answered when it was asked by phone.
Trust us, we’re anonymous!
The end effect of all this is that potentially traumatised people – in spite of its banner, the form also offers options for male and transgender people – are being asked to provide intimate information on traumatic experiences…
… to people whose identity and purposes they do not know.
That needs repeating:
To people whose identity and purposes they do not know
The potential data protection issues are huge, on top of the direct risk of providing sensitive information to an unknown person or persons. Any personal information that is submitted has no identified ‘data controller’, because everyone is anonymous. LabourToo is not a company – which would allow at least its directors to be identified via Companies House – so there is no legal entity to sue or pursue for any breach or harm arising.
Would you provide your information? Would you feel comfortable recommending someone else to do so?
And on the flip side, no attempt is made by the site to vet or verify the information submitted, so anyone – anyone at all – can submit anything s/he or they want. And in the context of the suicide today of Labour Welsh Assembly Member Carl Sargeant following unspecified accusations about his ‘personal conduct’, the dangers of that need little further emphasis.
Labour HQ, too
The SKWAWKBOX contacted Labour HQ for clarification about its stance on LabourToo. A spokesperson said that LabourToo is not affiliated with the Labour Party in any way and, after referring the matter up, came back with this additional statement
The spokesperson offered to refer the question but, in spite of our concern that this is a ‘safeguarding’ situation, provided only a generic statement about harassment and abuse and distancing itself from LabourToo:
Labour Too is not an official Labour Party website. The Party takes all complaints of sexual harassment, abuse and discrimination extremely seriously.
We ask that anyone with a complaint comes forward so that allegations can be properly investigated. When evidence of misconduct comes to light, all appropriate disciplinary action will be taken in line with the Party’s rule book and procedures.
The Party has been working with its affiliates to develop procedures specifically designed to deal with complaints of sexual harassment in order to improve internal processes and make it easier to report concerns.
LabourToo? Just say no
In light of the above information, the SKWAWKBOX recommends in the strongest possible terms that nobody should submit any information to ‘LabourToo’, nor should anyone suggest to others that they do so.
If you have been abused, harassed, assaulted or discriminated against, it is a matter of the utmost seriousness and must be treated accordingly – but take it to the Labour Party and, if appropriate, to the police.
Not to the anonymous ‘team’ behind ‘LabourToo’.
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