April 2019 | Neotas

Political Parties & Public Faux Pas

One of the longest standing traditions in British politics is public faux pas, often in the form of controversial, ignorant or downright outrageous statements made by Members of Parliament. In the past, apart from the most egregious of quotes, MPs only had to survive the embarrassment of the weekly news cycle before their misstep faded from memory. Before the advent of social media, many of these comments probably never even saw the light of day. They could be made offhand without the worry of ever coming back to haunt them in the future.

Then along came Twitter. Politicians jumped at the chance to create a social media presence and tweet their thoughts and opinions to the world. Twitter was a perfect platform to bounce policy ideas off of the general public and get in plenty of political point scoring at the same time. Unfortunately for them, every terrible or ridiculous tweet was now a fixture in their profile’s history, publicly available for anyone to view, no matter how long ago it was posted.

In the last week alone, several politicians who have recently increased their political prominence have fallen afoul of old tweets resurfacing into the public spotlight. Brand new political party, Change UK, has seen two of its European Parliament candidates face intense scrutiny.

Within hours of Ali Sadjady’s unveiling as a candidate, an offensive tweet from November 2017 was uncovered, in which he commented on ‘Romanian pickpockets’. He has already resigned. Joseph Russo had only been Change UK’s lead candidate in Scotland for 24 hours when several offensive tweets from 2012 re-surfaced and started to do the rounds. He has also stepped down.

Whilst social media has become an invaluable part of modern politics, it has opened up a whole new avenue of potential pitfalls. It’s more important than ever for MPs, and others in the public spotlight, to be aware of their online reputation, the permanence of what they share online and how it can have serious repercussions on their professional image. A proactive attitude by political parties towards online reputation screening and social media checks could have mitigated their risk from the outset and saved the fall-out in the press.

People shouldn’t be bought & sold…

Modern Slavery and human trafficking are some of the most widespread crimes in the world. An estimated 40.3 million people are victims of human trafficking, with 24.9m of these estimated to have been exploited for labour and 15.4m in forced marriage (according to the International Labour Organisation).

STOP THE TRAFFIK plays a central role in spreading awareness of modern slavery and putting in place effective crime prevention measures.

Intelligence-led prevention measures

Among the partners that are helping STOP THE TRAFFIK in its mission to prevent human trafficking, Neotas is playing a pivotal role through pro-bono analytical and advanced intelligence support. We are providing actionable intelligence that draws on insights from publicly available information. We are applying the open source intelligence (OSINT) tools and techniques that we utilise every day to conduct in-depth due diligence. From network mapping across social media channels, to building out motivators and behavioural insights (of both victims and perpetrators), this intelligence-led approach aids the creation of effective awareness campaigns and the prevention of modern slavery.

The role of social media

Social media is increasingly becoming a part of our everyday life and enabling communication across borders, with an estimated 2.77 bn users in 2019. This means that it provides the same opportunity to traffickers and is often used to recruit their victims. Open source intelligence and social network analysis plays a central role in gaining an understanding of overall trends, hotspots and means used by traffickers. As indicated by STOP THE TRAFFIK, this is crucial for the effective awareness campaigns that specifically target at-risk communities and individuals, using the power of OSINT for good.

Modern Slavery – Financial Crime

Collaboration with STOP THE TRAFFIK has enabled Neotas to support a charity that aims to make a real impact on the lives of millions of victims. While helping STOP THE TRAFFIK in its mission, it also serves as a reminder of modern slavery’s intrinsic ties to financial crime and illicit flows. There is an increasing focus on tackling financial crime and preventing money laundering at an institutional level, going beyond regulatory compliance.  Implicit in this is the importance of pinpointing any risk factors across the supply chain and it calls for more collaboration from financial institutions, regulators and governmental bodies, and the wider ecosystem, to help combat financial crime at the source.

What’s next?

Our partnership with STOP THE TRAFFIK has proven to be both exciting and mutually enriching. To be able to have such a profound impact on the lives of those suffering from modern slavery is truly an inspiring thing. With key projects already delivered, we look forward to continuing our partnership with STOP THE TRAFFIK and using the power of OSINT for good.

Follow Neotas here for live updates on our partnership with STOP THE TRAFFIK.

To learn more about STOP THE TRAFFIK click here

Is it time to get your act together online?

Recent news has covered a string of incidents involving public figures in relation to their activity online. Yesterday, an actress was fired by a TV soap series due to historic and offensive tweets. What she had shared on a computer screen led to the producers taking her off screen.  So in today’s world, how important is your digital reputation?

Not only is your online behaviour treated as a reflection of your real character, but it’s out there for all to see; not limited by location, audience or time zones. And it’s no different for celebrities and high-profile figures.

Emmerdale actress Shila Iqbal was fired by her employer given the nature of the tweets that were shared in 2013 when she was 19 years of age. This follows another case involving The Colour Purple actress being dropped from the musical over homophobic comments. The Australian rubgy player Israel Folauls is also to be sacked in relation to his homophobic and hateful social media outburst and refusal to accept the code of conduct for prominent sports figures such as himself.

Having since deleted her Twitter account, Ms. Iqbal issued sincere apologies, acknowledged that she was young but that “I, like everyone else, have a responsibility about the language I have used on social media as well as in conversation”.

“Your online digital reputation defines how people perceive you without ever having a single conversation with you” – Sylvie De Guisto, professional speaker

Celebrities and high-profile figures have to be mindful of their conduct and behaviour, as in this case and many similar, it can have far-reaching repercussions.

There are no exceptions in the online world: Social media influencers, footballers and prominent sports figures, politicians, CEO’s, and indeed all of us are all held accountable for our behaviour online and managing our reputational risk.

Companies are increasingly focused on their own digital reputations, encompassing the behaviour of their staff.  We saw it last week after the BBC’s response to its employees sharing personal views online.

Individuals’ online behaviour will always be challenging to monitor, but there is an opportunity for organisations to instil a culture of trust whilst managing their reputational risk from the outset.

In the case of Ms. Iqbal, the tweets were only flagged to the employer after she was hired. What would have happened if the tweets had been flagged sooner?

For us all as individuals, this serves as a reminder we should be mindful of our online behaviour (that goes to keyboard warriors too!) For organisations, the time is ripe to start placing more emphasis on this when they hire staff and onboard clients. In this digital world, protecting your online reputation has never been so important.

Hey, teacher, leave those kids alone!

A recent story highlighted the need to constantly maintain and review safeguarding controls.  An associate head teacher admitted to the crimes of gathering over 2000 images showing the sexual abuse of children, as well as owning Class A drugs. It is reported that the recruitment process at the time acted in accordance with all safeguarding requirements, including an appropriate criminal record check, but did not extend into checking his online footprint for signs of adverse behaviour. Therefore, if this current process hits the safeguarding requirements, shouldn’t it be time to raise the standard?

Improving the vetting process in institutions such as schools and hospitals is two-fold. Firstly, schools can collaborate with charities such as the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which runs the Stop it Now! Advice Helpline reporting concerning behaviour toward children. The charity referred 148 offenders between 2016-17, including individuals who have been hired into ‘high-risk’ positions. Secondly, screening procedures must become more rigorous. An individual’s digital footprint can be an invaluable source of insight into employment-related risk indicators. Tapping into this publicly available data source can reveal information not available in a criminal record check. Collaboration between schools and charities, coupled with raising the bar in online screening standards, will provide a more complete picture of the individual and thereby increase the chances of adverse behaviour and red risks being flagged before it’s too late.

The role of government, and departments such as Ofsted, is to establish guidelines that keep our children safe, to protect vulnerable people by ensuring a stringent vetting process. By redefining the processes currently in place to recognise the evolving challenges, they can better help to prevent the wrong individuals from being hired and better safeguard the vulnerable.  In light of the case of Mr. Newbury, we would pose the question: are current checks inadequate for the education sector and is it time to ramp up efforts across the whole ecosystem to ensure the safety of the individuals these institutions are accountable for?