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Starmer appoints former foreign ‘cyber-spy’ to monitor social media – and right-wing Labour already has ‘form’ for spying on members

No matter which country of origin, a state hacker for a foreign country should not be used by the party to monitor social media, particularly those of its members – which the Labour right has a well-established track record of doing

In a major exclusive, Electronic Intifada (EI) has reported that Keir Starmer has appointed a former state-employed hacker from the Israeli military’s ‘Unit 8200’ cyberspy unit monitoring Palestinians and others and which even managed to hack antivirus company Kaspersky. Whistleblowers from the unit revealed that members sometimes wore ‘X’s on their headsets to mark assassinations their information had facilitated – and that it targeted Palestinians for extortion and blackmail to further the government’s aims.

Assaf Kaplan, a former Unit 8200 officer, will take the post of ‘Social Listening and Organising Manager’ in Starmer’s office – ‘social listening’ is a term for organisations monitoring online conversations about them, or any other topic of interest. Kaplan is, or was until recently according to EI, also a Facebook friend of Shai Masot, the disgraced Israeli spy who was sent out of the UK after his interference in UK politics was discovered.

According to EI,

Kaplan’s LinkedIn states he has experience using a “digital monitoring platform” as well as “human analysis” to keep tabs on voters in Israeli elections.

and the mention of his experience in military intelligence was deleted after the EI article was published.

The appointment will be a serious concern to Labour members and others with concerns about free speech and Labour’s ongoing war on the human rights of its members – and the Labour right has plenty of ‘form’ that should add to those objections.

During Jeremy Corbyn’s second leadership election, the Labour right – still in control of the party machine – purged thousands of party members based on innocuous social media comments, even when the accounts those members were using were anonymous and used email addresses that were not used for party communications.

And in a chilling, recorded phone call, a Labour staffer admitted to one member, who phoned in to complain, that the party could use backdoor access to social media against members and would-be members – and the slew of expulsions, suspensions and denied membership applications suggested that it was freely doing so.

Even though the party’s own documents to staff said that any attempt to monitor members’ social media was a breach of data protection laws.

The party bureaucracy was also said to be able to use features of its membership management platform to track down and monitor the social media accounts of members.

And now Keir Starmer has appointed a former specialist hacker from a unit described as “on a par with the [US] NSA in everything except scale”, to ‘listen’ to social media output. Such a move has no place in a supposedly democratic party, no matter which country the activities were carried out in or for which government.

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