December 2019 | Neotas

The Campaign Crisis: MPs and their Mishaps

As election day looms, we look back at what has been a tumultuous campaign for MP candidates from all parties. As is becoming the norm in British politics, online blunders and revelations have once again ended several political careers. In a previous blog post we highlighted the mistakes made by Change UK, but here we explore how political parties have failed to grasp the importance of online due diligence and social media checks. 

The SNP dropped a candidate over anti-Semitic posts shared on Facebook, whilst offensive tweets from a prospective Lib Dem MP were deemed to have brought the party “into disrepute”. Having formed in January, the Brexit Party found themselves in a scramble to produce hundreds of MP candidates to stand across the United Kingdom. Ithis rush to field candidates, any semblance of due diligence went out of the window.  

Stoke North candidate, Daniel Rudd, was dropped after the emergence of homophobic and racist tweets from his personal account. In a bizarre attempted show of support for animal rights, he also suggested conducting pharmaceutical testing on ‘Remainers’ instead. He has since deleted his Twitter profile. 

Brighton Kemptown candidate, Dr Graham Cushway, came under fire for his past involvement in a ‘Nazi vampire’ themed heavy metal band. A simple Google search of his name will lead you to articles from 2012 describing his acrimonious departure from the band. Once the connection is made, you can find the candidate (under his stage name of Graham Lord Pyre) sporting the SS Totenkopf insignia on his Gestapo-style costume in photos on the band’s website. 

Candidate Jill Hughes also faced increasing scrutiny for the disparity between claims on her social media profiles and her actual accomplishments and accolades. For example, she listed herself as the ‘CEO’ of Money Magnet on her LinkedIn since November 2017 but only registered the company on 10 October this year.  

These were avoidable slip-upsas adverse content was there for anyone to find. Political parties and candidates face greater scrutiny in the press, and the lack of due diligence conducted led to a great deal of wasted time and money. We have highlighted the need for online reputation screening to help build a complete picture of job candidates, but this should be no different for political candidates. 

Sharing is Caring. Right?

The emergence of sharing economy companies, such as Uber, Airbnb, and Bolt has brought a question mark around the level of due diligence conducted on service providers. Does the very nature of the sharing economy, which has called into question the regulatory system surrounding it, provide a platform for crimes to be more easily committed?

A spate of crimes has caused calls for more stringent background checks to be completed. One piece of research  has found that 30% of platform providers have “serious inconsistencies in their licensing and identities”, with even taxi drivers admitting that checks need to be more stringent. Uber also lost its London licence after TfL found drivers faked their identity, and a government report found that licenses were issued to criminals convicted of serious crimes.

So, what is currently being done to combat these issues? Well, Uber state on their website that background checks “vary from city to city” and Airbnb’s website states their “limited background checks” are on the condition of “if we have enough information” and “cannot guarantee” they will identify “all criminal convictions or sex offenders”. The very wording clearly shows these platforms know their checks aren’t stringent enough. Surely if consumers are expected to take a ride in someone’s car or stay in someone’s home, we should be able to trust them and the companies in which employ these people. So, what can companies do to maintain this trust?

The answer is simple – more stringent checks. Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) checks can delve deeper than standard database checks to highlight clear risk indicators. There is a clear need for regulatory reform through the issues highlighted throughout the industry. Personal safety charity Suzy Lamplugh Trust notes that “the highest level of criminal checks is not required in law” allows a “minority [to slip] through the net”. In the ‘Age of the Internet’, checks need to keep up with this online society that has been created, and OSINT provides an extra step for that extra layer of security.