This Russell Brand story gets stranger and stranger by the day. Last night it was revealed the a senior MP had written letters to multiple social media companies requesting information on Russell Brand’s income and covertly pressuring them into either demonetizing or removing his accounts.
The news broke when video-hosting platform Rumble posted a screenshot of their letter, along with their official response, on Twitter.
In the letter, Dame Caroline Dinenage MP – chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee – requests to know “whether Mr Brand is able monetize his content”, “whether Rumble intends to join YouTube [in suspending monetization]” and what steps they are taking to “ensure that creators are not able to use the platform to undermine the welfare of victims”.
This is, obviously, wrong. At the very least it’s massive government overreach and potential ministerial misconduct. It is certainly a breach of privacy, and a flagrant display of disregard for the rule of law.
Forget Russell Brand, whether or not you like him and what he did or didn’t do, this is a point of principle.
Right now Brand is nothing but the subject of media-based mudslinging – there has been no trial, no arrest, and no charge. He is entirely innocent in the eyes of the law and remains that way until convicted, this is a vital right enshrined in British law since Magna Carta [emphasis added]:
No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.
What would prompt the government to overstep like this?
There’s really only one answer to that: The overstep was the whole point.
Either Russell Brand is being genuinely persecuted to establish this precedent, or it’s a manufactured drama being used to establish the precedent. Either way, the precedent is the aim of the game, and the precedent is what should concern everyone much more than the details of the case.
But that’s just the run-of-the-mill tyranny which, in these days of de-banking and censorship, is becoming rather monotonous.
The really odd thing about this is the timing.
The Online Safety Bill
The day before yesterday the House of Lords passed the Online Safety Bill into law, when it’s given Royal assent it will grant sweeping new powers to Britain’s media regulator OfCom.
Among those powers is the authority to serve “information notices”. Meaning OfCom will be empowered to request and collect any and all information they desire from internet services, under penalty of fines or even prison time if the company fails to comply.
And by any information they mean any information, the clause is deliberately as broad and vague as possible:
OFCOM may by notice under this subsection (an “information notice”) require a person within subsection (4) to provide them with any information that they require for the purpose of exercising, or deciding whether to exercise, any of their online safety functions.
Online Safety Bill, page 77, s87(1)
Later clauses even specifically mention income and monetization information (along with a raft of others).
So you see, there was no need for Dinenage to send those letters out. In the very near future OfCom would have been able to serve information notices to Rumble/TikTok/X to get Brand’s income figures, and there would be no question of a) publicly embarrassing an MP or b) companies refusing to co-operate.
There was no time pressure on Dinenage to act, the news only broke a few days ago, and she can’t claim to not know the contents of the bill because as Digital Minister from 2020-2021 she helped write it.
To sum up: There was no reason at all to send those letters now. Doing so may even have damaged the government’s position and increased support for Brand. So why were they sent?
It could be that by asking for information and being denied it, they are trying to demonstrate why we “need” the Online Safety Bill. “Rumble is protecting sexual predators, but the new law will stop that!”.
It could be that social media companies are keen to perform “standing up the government” to excuse or distract from their inevitable co-operation down the line. “Look, we said no when they asked, but now they’re forcing us under a new law! It’s not our fault!”.
It could be some totally illogical self-serving move from an ambitious MP who wants to be seen to be “tough on sexual assault”.
It could be that they are quite deliberately providing both sides with talking points to support their opinion in order to entrench positions and sustain division (they do this a lot lately).
…or it could be something else entirely. There’s a certain feeling of chaos for chaos sake right now, maybe when the waters calm the overall agenda will reveal itself.
On a final note I just want to point out that Dame Caroline Dinenage’s husband is Major General John Mark Lancaster, Baron Lancaster of Kimbolton, former deputy commander of the British Army’s 77th Brigade, responsible for “non-lethal warfare and behavioural influence”.
Make of that what you will.
Incidentally, if you’d like to contact Dame Caroline to let her know what you think of her attempt to undermine human rights law, you can do so here.
Updated after original publication to include quote of “information notices” clause.
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