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It’s ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and we’re watching it live | #childsafety | #kids | #chldern | #parents | #hacking | #aihp

Messages from the archive of Rutherford Hall, critical communications strategist

WhatsApp to Stephen: Eek. This is going to be tough. The tech lobby is freaking out over the UK’s new online safety laws. They hate that it could see them ordered to weaken end-to-end encryption in messaging apps. Ministers say encryption shelters paedophiles and terrorists and they are taking powers to demand that police have some backdoor into the system; like decryption keys or maybe just demanding that all messages be shared confidentially with Isabel Oakeshott.



Hi Siri,

We’re psyched to be helping your lobbying campaign. Our clients are voicing the same fears about laws to stop tech giants doing whatever they see fit. It’s big government against the individual. You are so right. Ayn Rand would see this for what it is. This is Atlas Shrugged and it’s happening in real time.

But we need to reframe the debate. Right now we have tech guys banging on about privacy and secure communications versus ministers who totally don’t understand the tech but have a powerful public safety line that plays with voters.

Best, Rutherford

Member DSIT Panel on Business and the Metaverse

Find me on Strava, KoM Sydenham Hill, PR London to Brighton 3h 37m

WhatsApp to Siri: No, I’ve not tested that point about voters liking crackdowns on paedophiles with focus groups. Not sure we need extra data on that point.

WhatsApp to Siri: Honestly, I wouldn’t talk up the tech firms “stellar record” on safety and content moderation. But I’d be happy to get you the polling data on that!



Hi Siri,

We see two arguments here. The first is your warnings that users may be more vulnerable to hacking and that evil governments will use the weakness for persecution. I know you feel these privacy arguments are key but ministers know voters prioritise counter-terrorism and child safety over civil-liberties. In any case, people assume that everything online gets hacked sooner or later anyway.

We see more traction with government in playing up the wider threat to Britain’s status as a global tech hub. You heard Rishi Sunak talking about the Unicorn Kingdom — yes I know, it’s terrible. You can just tell it came up at the end of a long meeting and people weren’t really listening or were too tired to object. That’s how we got the Millennium Dome.

Rishi wants Britain to be a magnet for tech talent. But there’s been a run of decisions and policies sending shivers up the sector’s spines. So our message must be that the UK is now costly, bureaucratic, overregulated and less tech-friendly than the EU. That will really get to them. Signal has already said they’d pack up if this law is enacted. Can we get someone in Meta to say the same about WhatsApp? That’s the real Atlas Shrugged-level play. But just don’t get Nick Clegg to say it, he’s got less credibility here than Boris Johnson’s hairdresser.

Best, Rutherford

Member DSIT Panel . . . 

Find me on Strava . . . 

WhatsApp to FrankP@DowningStreet: Frank, congrats on the new role. I can’t think of a better choice for Rishi’s business adviser. Listen, I’m really worried about the impact policies are having on our ambitions for Britain as the Unicorn Kingdom. Who came up with that line by the way? It’s bloody genius

WhatsApp to FrankP@Downing Street: Seriously, Meta may shut down WhatsApp if you do this. What will it say about tech in the UK if one of the giants closes its service and heads to Europe. I’m not bothered by overblown, privacy arguments — privacy, schmivacy — but they are and I worry about the damage this will do to the UK. You can’t be an innovation superpower if the tech companies have fled to Berlin. No unicorns, no Unicorn Kingdom. And Carthorse Kingdom doesn’t sound as good.

WhatsApp to FrankP@Downing Street: No, of course it’s not about the cost. Some of these guys are major philanthropists.

WhatsApp to Stephen: Am getting seriously worried about MartinK at Volpone Bank. That data breach is really hurting him.

WhatsApp to Stephen: What? How did that get out? The entire details of the Volpone loan that let me buy your shares is on the web as a result of that data breach? This is a disaster. We haven’t even told the staff. Wasn’t it encrypted? What was MartinK thinking?

WhatsApp to Siri: You know, on reflection perhaps we could play up the security and privacy point a bit more.

WhatsApp to FrankP@Downing Street: Frank, this isn’t just about UK plc. I think we’ve underestimated the data security issue. Our private affairs being vulnerable to enemies of the state, rival businesses or our own staff, could erode trust in the fundamentals of democracy and capitalism. Imagine if every sensitive message you sent could be hacked by the Chinese, or worse, the Daily Telegraph. If we undermine the encryption that protects our way of life, aren’t we actually letting the terrorists win?

Messages recovered by Robert Shrimsley

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