Inquiry Begun as Meta Exec Clegg Accused of Getting Hands on UK Gov’t Plan for Net Crackdown: Report
12:22 GMT 20.02.2022 (Updated: 12:35 GMT 20.02.2022)
© AP PhotoFree speech campaigners, one wearing a mask depicting British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and another wearing a mask depicting ex-LibDem leader Nick Clegg, stage a photo op for the media during a protest opposite from the Houses of Parliament in central London in 2013.
© AP Photo
Leak Inquiry Begun as Meta Supremo Clegg Accused of Getting Hands on UK Gov’t Plan for Net Crackdown
Officials at Whitehall have launched a leak inquiry amid concerns that Nick Clegg is using his old government connections to receive classified information about government plans to crack down on Meta and other internet giants by forcing them to track “legal but harmful” user content.
Sources said to be familiar with the matter told the Daily Mail that Whitehall first caught on to Clegg’s reliance on information from a mole or moles in Whitehall after Sir Nick mentioned classified government information in a Zoom call with British officials in mid-2020.
Suspicions were said to have been raised further following the publication of a Financial Times report this week on Home Office plans to force regulation of user content citing a “tech industry executive who has seen the proposals”. According to FT’s information, Home Secretary Priti Patel has been charged with making serious changes to internet regulation through an upcoming ‘Online Safety Bill’. The government plans were reportedly only seen by a small number of senior aides, sparking speculation that the leaker may have been a Clegg informant.
“We don’t know if Clegg himself is getting this information, or if the company has other sources, but they seem to know what we are up to almost before we do,” a security source complained to the Daily Mail.
The leak inquiry is expected to target the Foreign Office, the Treasury, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
A Meta spokesperson dismissed media reporting on the matter, suggesting any claims that Clegg was getting info from a Whitehall mole were “absurd and false.” The spokesperson said the company was not aware of any leak inquiry.
19 February 2022, 08:48 GMT
Clegg was promoted by Meta president Mark Zuckerberg on 16 February to the newly created post of president of global affairs, with his new role expecting to focus on regulatory issues. In his announcement on Clegg’s promotion, Zuckerberg said the company needed “a senior leader at the level of myself (for our products) and Sheryl [Sandberg] (for our business) who can lead and represent us for all our policy issues globally.”
Clegg “will now lead our company on all policy matters, including how we interact with governments as they consider adopting new policies and regulations, as well as how we make the case publicly for our products and our work,” Zuckerberg said.
Along with Facebook, Meta also owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus –makers of a virtual reality headset Zuckerberg hopes will play a major role in the future of online social interaction.
UK media have expressed concerns about the prospects of tougher regulations on social media leading to a clampdown on free speech like the one seen over the past two years about controversial news stories and topics like Russiagate, Hunter Biden’s laptop, the origins of Covid, and the use of over-the-counter drugs to fight the coronavirus.
The ‘tech industry executive’ cited by FT told the newspaper that being forced to monitor legal content would cross a “huge red line” for internet companies. “This seems to go significantly beyond what is done in democratic countries around the world,” another tech industry figure said. “It feels a bit closer to what they are doing in China,” the official warned.
20 February 2022, 04:52 GMT