Professor Nicholas Ryder wins Anti Financial Crime Award

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Congratulations to UWE Bristol Law School’s Professor in Financial Crime, Nicholas Ryder, on receiving the Themis ‘Strides Against Money Laundering’ award at their recent Anti Financial Crime Awards virtual ceremony on Tuesday 23 March 2021. This award promotes the fight against Money Laundering by recognising the efforts of an individual or organisation making significant progress in the prevention of illicit monies entering the banking systems.

“This award reflects Nic’s innovative research and commitment to encouraging collaboration between academic and professional policy-making arenas, a fantastic achievement, well done.”

Rob Thompson, The London Institute of Banking & Finance, judge of the Strides Against Money Laundering award

“I’m very humbled and very honoured to accept the award from Themis. It was very unexpected so I’d like to thank the company and the judging panel. I think it goes to show the importance of research that academics can conduct and how we can positively contribute towards tackling the threat posed by financial crime.”

Professor Nicholas Ryder

Themis is a purpose led organisation committed to reducing the global impact of financial crime. As a bridge between the public and private sectors, we want to highlight the fantastic work, best practices, achievements and determination of individuals and organisations in their contribution in the fight against financial crime.

You can watch the full awards ceremony video and find out more information on the Themis website.

Towards sustainable cities: best practices and challenges of urban sustainable policies implementation

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By Francesco Venuti, a member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group.

Cities’ role in achieving Sustainable Development

Cities are thrilling places that allow people to develop new and innovative ideas, offering many opportunities to put into practice the shift to the brain-based economy and mechanised labour.[1] However, they also represent the major source of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions worldwide and the areas in which most of the resources are consumed.[2] Urban environmental footprint is even expected to increase because projections estimate that 68% of the world population will live in cities by 2050.[3]

For these reasons, the United Nations decided to pay special attention to urban areas integrating them within the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.[4] In particular, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 11 conceives the idea of a sustainable city, calling the international community to ‘make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable’.[5] SDG 11 comprises 10 sub-targets that address different sectors of urban sustainability. Each city’s level of compliance with these sub-targets is measured through a series of indicators developed by the UN.[6]

SDG 11 and human health

Some sub-targets are closely connected with human health, e.g., those related to the transport sector (SDG 11.2), urban development plans (SDG 11.3), and air quality (SDG 11.6). In 2014, the transportation sector alone accounted for almost 1/5 of the GHG emissions,[7] playing a central role in worsening the air quality and thus impacting the health of millions of people. Besides, in 2017 air pollution represented the fourth leading cause of death worldwide.[8] Finally, urban development plans are critical in enabling broader citizens participation in cities development, offering a means to avoid discrimination that leads to social inequality and poor standards of living.

Best practices

Research shows that some cities are role models in one of the sectors taken into consideration. In particular, Singapore regarding SDG 11.2, Medellín (Colombia) regarding SDG 11.3, and Stockholm (Sweden) regarding SDG 11.6.

In Singapore, for example, recent investments made by the government allowed the public transportation sector to achieve high-efficiency levels[9] while maintaining itself affordable even for lower social classes and vulnerable people.[10] These improvements enabled Singapore to have a percentage of people conveniently served by the public transport system near 100%.[11]

In Medellín, the concept of sustainable development firstly appeared in an urban development plan in 1993.[12] Since then, environmental concerns and citizen participation progressively gained momentum, offering alternative perspectives in solving many issues (e.g., the problem of landslides in the peri-urban area).[13]

Stockholm offers a great example of how taxing polluting vehicles can increase urban air quality and positively impact human health from different angles. The 2006 congestion scheme implementation produced positive outcomes concerning traffic reduction,[14] lower CO2 emissions,[15] and dwellers health[16] and road safety improvement.[17] The good effects on air quality are confirmed by the fact that Stockholm is currently compliant with the World Health Organisation’s recommended levels of air polluting particles.[18]

Challenges

Other cities, e.g., Milan, present an opposing situation with some sectors that are characterised by measures that promote SDG 11, while others show clear obstacles to urban sustainable development. In Milan, several measures directed to decrease air pollution targeted both the transport sector[19] and the GHG emissions generated by domestic heating systems.[20] The results in terms of air quality improvement are promising.[21] However, concerning the link between urban development plans and social inclusion and integration, research shows both an unequal wealth distribution[22] and irrational land utilisation.[23] These elements produce social fallouts related to immigrant communities’ inclusion and integration and widespread illegal housing.[24]

In conclusion, data gathered on these four cities demonstrate that the best way to address SDG 11 is by adopting an integrated approach that has collaboration between different actors as its core and gives the same importance to all the three pillars of sustainable development.

This blog is based on the LLM dissertation on ‘Are policies on Sustainable Cities complying with SDG 11? Milan as a case study’.

References:

[1] Steven Cohen, The Sustainable City (Columbia University Press 2017)

[2] United Nations, ‘Tracking Progress Towards Inclusive, Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements: SDG 11 Synthesis Report High Level Political Forum 2018’ (2018) available at: https://unhabitat.org/sites/default/files/2019/05/sdg_11

[3] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, ‘World Urbanisation Prospects 2018: Highlights’ (2019) 5 UN Doc ST/ESA/SER.A/421; UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, ‘68% of the World Population Projected to Live in Urban Areas By 2050, Says UN’ (United Nations, 16 May 2018) available at: https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html

[4] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 70/1 ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ (25 September 2015) UN Doc A/RES/70/1 (adopted without vote)

[5] available at: https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal11

[6] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 71/313 (6 July 2017) UN Doc A/RES/71/313 (adopted without vote), annual refinements contained in E/CN.3/2018/2 (Annex II), E/CN.3/2019/2 (Annex II), and 2020 Comprehensive Review changes (Annex II) and annual refinements (Annex III) contained in E/CN.3/2018/2 (Annex II), E/CN.3/2019/2 (Annex II), and 2020 Comprehensive Review changes (Annex II) and annual refinements (Annex III) contained in E/CN.3/2020/2

[7] European Environment Agency, ‘Sectoral greenhouse gas emissions by IPCC sector’ available at: https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/daviz/change-of-co2-eq-emissions-2#tab-chart_4

[8] Hanna Ritchie and Max Roser, ‘Air Pollution’ (Our World in Data, October 2017) available at: https://ourworldindata.org/air-pollution#air-pollution-is-one-of-the-world-s-leading-risk-factors-for-death

[9] ‘Completion of The Bus Service Enhancement Programme (BSEP)’ (Land Transport Authority, 9 December 2017) available at: https://www.lta.gov.sg/content/ltagov/en/newsroom/2017/12/2/completion-of-the-bus-service-enhancement-programme-bsep.html

[10] ‘Concessionary Card Fare Structures for Lower-Wage Workers and Persons with Disabilities’ available at: https://www.mot.gov.sg/docs/default-source/default-document-library/annex-a_concessionary-card-fare-structures-for-lower-wage-workers-and-persons-with-disabilities.pdf

[11] available at: https://www.singstat.gov.sg/find-data/sdg/goal-11

[12] Peter Brand, ‘The Sustainable City as a Metaphor: Urban Environmentalism in Medellín, Colombia’ in Mike Jenks and Rod Burgess (eds), Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries (Spon Press 2000)

[13] Joseph Claghorn and others, ‘Rehabitar la Montaña: Strategies and Processes for Sustainable Communities in the Mountainous Periphery of Medellín’ [2016] 8 Urbe: Revista Brasileira de Gestão Urbana 42

[14] Staffan Algers and others, ‘Facts and Results from the Stockholm Trials’ (2006) available at: http://www.stockholmsforsoket.se/upload/Sammanfattningar/English/Final%20Report_The%20Stockholm%20Trial.pdf

[15] Jonas Eliasson and others, ‘The Stockholm Congestion Charging Trial 2006: Overview of Effects’ [2009] 43 Transportation Research Part A 240

[16] Christer Johansson, Lars Burman, and Bertil Forsberg, ‘The Effects of Congestion Tax on Air Quality and Health [2009] 43 Atmospheric Environment 4843

[17] Jonas Eliasson, ‘A Cost–Benefit Analysis of the Stockholm Congestion Charging System’ [2009] 43 Transportation Research Part A 468

[18] European Environmental Agency, ‘Air Quality in Europe: 2019 Report’ (2019) EEA Report No 10/2019 95 available at: https://www.developmentaid.org/api/frontend/cms/uploadedImages/2019/10/Air-quality-in-europe_2019-final.pdf

[19] Milan City Council Deliberations (Deliberazioni della Giunta comunale di Milano) 1788/2007, 2526/2011, 1366/2018 (IT)

[20] Ordinance of the Mayor (Ordinanza del Sindaco) 51/2020

[21] Edoardo Croci and Aldo Ravazzi Douvan, ‘Urban Road Pricing: A Comparative Study on the Experiences in London, Stockholm and Milan’ (2016) Centre for Research on Energy and Environmental Economics and Policy available at: ftp://ftp.repec.org/opt/ReDIF/RePEc/bcu/papers/iefewp85.pdf

[22] Pietro L Verga, ‘Rhetoric in the Representation of a Multi-Ethnic Neighbourhood: The Case of Via Padova, Milan’ [2016] 48 Antipode 1080

[23] ‘Urban Development and Green Economy’ available at: https://osservatoriomilanoscoreboard.it/en/goals/urban-development-and-green-economy/urban-development-and-green-economy-2019

[24] Petros Petsimeris, ‘Social and Ethnic Transformation of Large Housing Estates in Milan, Italy: From Modernity to Marginalisation’ in Daniel Baldwin Hess, Tiit Tammaru, and Maarten Van Ham (eds) Housing Estates in Europe: Poverty, Ethnic Segregation and Policy Challenges (Springer 2018)

UWE Students Participate in Vaquita Conservation Hackathon

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Written by Ethan Franks (in collaboration with James Pettipher and Bethany Foster).

On December 12 to December 13, the world’s first dedicated Vaquita conservation Hackathon took place. A Hackathon brings a large group of people together to work tirelessly for a 48-hour time period to address separate issues that threaten a cause. The people that take part in the project come together from different countries and different career backgrounds that all relate to the issue at the base of the Hackathon. The Vaquita conservation project is a complex multi-faceted issue that spans many fields, from criminal law to biology. The aim of this Hackathon was to develop a brighter future for the Vaquita, of which the methods and lessons learned can be incorporated into other complex conservation and criminology problems. UWE Bristol Law students proudly represented almost all the United Kingdom within the ‘criminal law review’ sector of the Hackathon.

The criminal law review aimed to try and combat the issues that Mexico is having in enforcing the law against illegal Totoaba Cartels fishermen and meeting its treaty obligations. This is to be done by all the groups, collaboratively developing a white paper. The hope is that by publishing a white paper and then implementing its recommendations the Vaquita and other marine wildlife in the Gulf of California will be sufficiently protected by the Mexican government.

Each individual group comprising a small number of students was set up with a mentor. Groups worked together to suggest their solution and then go away to work on small tasks that worked towards a final solution. This process would take place repeatedly over the weekend reinforcing the solution before the closing ceremony at midnight on the Sunday.

UWE law student James Pettipher and I worked under our mentor Volcy Boilevin, forming group six of the Hackathon. We were tasked with supporting the law enforcement efforts of the Mexican government. We decided that the best approach to take to impact Mexico was to try and use Mexico’s agreements with neighbouring countries to help impose pressure on Mexico. The pressure was implemented with the intention of encouraging the Mexican government to value its environmental obligations, without using the ineffective environmental law.

Additionally, group four included another UWE student, Bethany Foster who under the guidance of Daniel Marsh and alongside other professionals and students, worked on a proposal addressing the weak judicial framework that operates in Mexico that fails to deter the illegal totoaba trade. The suggested solution was twofold: introducing a judicial exchange programme between the UK and Mexico and assisting Mexico in implementing sentencing guidelines to ensure consistent sentencing of wildlife criminals. These proposals involve mutual co-operation between the UK, Mexico and industry experts and success is largely determined by Mexico’s willingness to co-operate. However, these proposals were inspired by the work of international criminal barrister Shamini Jayanathan whose efforts have focused on judicial reform where jurisdictions have weak judicial processes. Her work has been incredibly successful which provides a blueprint for the potential success of these propositions.

The entirety of the event will be concluded this year when a decision is made as to the best legal solutions to be put forward and incorporated into a white paper. Though it is not the motivation of any of the participants, there will be a prize awarded to the best proposed solution as well.

The Hackathon was organized by the Conservation Project International, a platform dedicated to supporting and mentoring young conservationists and future leaders, in collaboration with Earth League International, Earth Hacks and the Countering Wildlife Trafficking Institute. The event was financially supported by the two research groups of the Bristol Law School (the Global Crime, Justice and Security Research Group and the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group).

Criminal Justice in ‘Crisis’: Covid-19 and the Right to a Jury Trial

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Blog by Dr. Edward Johnston, Senior Lecturer in Law at UWE Bristol.

In November the back log of outstanding cases in the criminal courts of England and Wales stood at 457,518. According to the same Sky News report, this is some 100,000 more than February 2020. Of the near half a million outstanding cases, just under 54,000 are for cases to be heard in the Crown Court and the remaining 403,000 cases are set to be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

Moving forward, the picture looks even more bleak. Crest Advisory, who specialise in predictions and analytical models concerning criminal justice suggest that by 2024, there could well be 580,000 cases outstanding in the magistrates’ court and 195,000 outstanding in the Crown Court.

It is clear that something has to give to solve this ‘crisis’ – a word often used to describe the current state of criminal justice. However, is ‘crisis’ the correct term? The Oxford English Dictionary defines a crisis as ‘ a time when a problem, a bad situation or an illness is at its worst point’. From the Crest predictions, it is clear we have not even begun to hit the ‘worst point.’ Furthermore, a crisis can be defined as a period of ‘great danger’ – well, criminal justice was in a state of crisis long before Covid-19; from cuts to police officers and PCSOs to court closures throughout England and Wales. The Guardian reported in January 2019 that almost 50% of magistrates’ courts have closed and according to a report by the National Audit Office, the government plan to close another 77 courts by 2025/26. Is it no wonder that the backlog of cases is so large and continuing to grow.

As ever, it is the right to trial by jury that is the first fundamental freedom to be attacked. It always is. In 2018, Labour MP Ann Coffey suggested that we ‘do away with juries in rape trials’ in order to allow a trained judge, sitting alone decide the case Just this week, Simon Jenkins, writing for the guardian suggested that we abolish jury trials as the huge backlog of cases has allowed us to ‘reform our archaic and irrelevant court rituals.’ Jenkins suggests that after 3 terms as a juror he is convinced that they are a ‘costly indulgence’  and ‘have nothing to do with justice except often distort it.’ Additionally, he claims that his final case was a ‘blatant’ attempted murder case which involved young lawyers making mistakes, before the judge declared all relevant evidence ‘prejudicial’ and instructed the jury to acquit the defendant – quite how this has anything to do with the role or function of the jury is beyond me. But it perhaps goes some way to explain his misunderstanding about the role and its importance.

It came as no surprise this week to see Labour call for alterations to the jury system. Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy, called for juries to be reduced to 7 people to ‘stem the gravest crisis in the justice system since WWII‘. As highlighted above, Crown Court cases (not all will be heard by a jury because of guilty pleas) make up a fraction of this current and predicated backlog of cases. This is a marked shift from Lammy, who in his 2017 Review into the treatment of BAME individuals in the criminal justice system found that the ‘jury system was fit for purpose’ (see page 41). The system was already in a state of crisis – why suggest amendments now?

Furthermore, why would 7 people allow the backlog to be cleared any quicker – they still have to deliberate and properly consider the evidence they have heard and therefore are not likely to make the process any swifter. And if they are not going to be quicker – they will not help tackle the backlog. Writing in 2021 Dr. Hannah Quirk outlined the importance of juries and proffered a way forward to tackle the growing backlog. In her Criminal Law Review Editorial, she suggested that ‘juries may provide an important safety net against unfair prosecutions. The difficulties are immense but alternative measures should be tried, such as using university facilities or a purpose-built site. If convention centres could be turned into field hospitals in a few weeks, creating a functioning courtroom cannot be impossible. The medical profession is discovering unexpected long-term side-effects of Covid-19; the criminal justice system should ensure that the right to trial by jury is not another casualty of the crisis.’

If the criminal justice system was adequately funded (to provide opportunities to pursue a career in the CPS or defence professions), if courts were not closed and therefore unable to hear cases then that would provide a way forward to tackle the crisis. Perhaps the government ought to look to re-open the closed buildings they have not sold off or as Quirk suggests, repurpose existing buildings to be suitable for criminal trials.

Amending trial by jury will do little to reduce the backlog of cases, in fact it would be the start of a slippery slope and the death knell to jury trials in England. Following Quirk’s suggesting again,  we need to ensure that jury trials are not another casualty of the current crisis.

FCA regulation of cryptocurrency service providers: A slow start

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By Henry Hillman, Lecturer in Law at UWE Bristol.

The UK implemented the 5th Anti-Money Laundering Directive in January 2020,[1] which extended anti-money laundering and counter terrorist financing (AML/CTF) regulation to include exchanges of fiat currency for cryptocurrency. As of 10th January 2020, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) was made responsible for the regulation of cryptocurrency service providers (CSPs) for the purposes of AML/CTF. As part of taking on such responsibility, and brining CSPs into the AML/CTF regulatory perimeter, the FCA required applicable CSPs to register with them by 9th January 2021, or cease operations. At the time of writing there are only four entries on the FCA’s register,[2] and 104 firms awaiting registration, which raises questions as to the proactivity of the FCA in fulfilling its responsibilities. This paper will set out the intended regulation of CSPs, and consider the reasons behind the FCA’s lacklustre performance so far.

AML/CTF regulation of cryptocurrencies in the UK is to exceed the requirements of the latest EU Directive, by applying AML/CTF measures to transactions involving exchanges between cryptocurrencies as well as exchanges between cryptocurrencies and fiat currencies. The CSPs which will be regulated are those that provide exchange services or are custodian wallet providers. Regulation 14A(1) defines a “cryptoasset exchange provider”[3] as any individual or firm which provides services for “exchanging, or arranging or making arrangements”[4] to exchange cryptocurrency for either money[5] or another cryptocurrency,[6] including any activities which are automated.[7] A custodian wallet provider is defined as any individual or firm that “provides services to safeguard, or to safeguard and administer”[8] cryptocurrency on behalf of customers, or provides “private cryptographic keys”[9] for customers to manage their cryptocurrency with. Cryptocurrency transactions are protected using public-key cryptography, which allows a user to receive cryptocurrency that has been sent to their public key, much like an address, using their private key, akin to a door key.[10] Not all cryptocurrency users use custodian wallets. A custodian wallet as described in the regulations is comparable to an online bank account, and so may be the most appealing to cryptocurrency beginners as the security is managed by their service provider. More experienced cryptocurrency users may utilise alternative types of wallets, which will not be regulated.[11] 

The amendment to the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Regulations 2017,[12] means any business carrying out newly regulated activity must register with the FCA, and comply with the Regulations. AML/CTF regulation can be divided into two broad elements; data collection in the form of record keeping and completing customer due diligence requirements, and reporting requirements, principally suspicious activity reports. The measures are intended to increase financial intelligence.

Bringing CSPs into the regulatory perimeter shows the intent of the government to address a clear gap in its approach to AML/CTF, but the amended legislation is only valuable if it is utilised by the FCA. The initial steps by the FCA appeared to be positive, with the announcement of a year-long registration period, but this time looks to have been wasted as only four entries appear on the register as of January 2021.[13] A mitigating factor for the FCA’s performance so far could be the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and that they are working through the 104 applicants on their temporary registration list, but neither of these arguments hold up to scrutiny. Firstly, the entries on the register so far were all added between 18th August and 1st September 2020, which illustrates firms could be vetted within the restrictions in place over the summer and autumn of 2020. Secondly, the temporary register appears to have a very low bar for inclusion, yet bestows included firms with “temporary registration”[14] to carry out regulated activities. The FCA state that the firms on the temporary list have not been assessed by them as “fit and proper,”[15] and the information appears to simply be an alphabetical list of firms which have applied to the FCA. The 104 temporary registered firms appear with their name, their address, and any other trading names used, however, this data is inputted in an inconsistent manner. There are entries which are in full capitals and other which lack capitals where required, the address formats vary, and there are two near identical entries; such errors and inconsistencies suggest the temporary register is simply pasted data from the firms applications. Questions might also be raised as to the integrity of the approved register too, as three of the four entries are registered at the same address and two of those entries lack a registered telephone number.[16] Based on the state of both the register and the temporary register, the commitment of the FCA to regulating CSPs can be questioned. While disappointing, the performance of the FCA in implementing AML/CTF regulation of cryptocurrency activity is consistent with their approach to cryptocurrencies to date.

The FCA has repeatedly stated that it does not regulate cryptocurrencies. The leading lines of advice on the FCA website state that cryptocurrencies are “considered very high risk, speculative investments”[17] and those buying them should be “prepared to lose all your money.”[18] Since the extension of the AML/CTF regulation, the FCA has caveated its advice, to state that cryptocurrencies are “only regulated in the UK for money laundering purposes.”[19] The FCA appears reluctant to be proactive with regards to cryptocurrencies, it could have interpreted the broad definition of a ‘money services business’ in Regulation 3 of the Money Laundering Regulations[20] to allow it to regulate cryptocurrencies three years before being explicitly handed the role by government. A money services business includes “an undertaking which by way of business operates a currency exchange office, transmits money (or any representations of monetary value) by any means,[21] which can clearly include cryptocurrencies, given their monetary value.

The FCA has commissioned research to ascertain the level of consumer engagement with cryptocurrencies. The research by Revealing Reality for the FCA identified three main factors fuelling cryptocurrency investment; a weakened trust in mainstream media, looking for the next ‘shortcut’, and acting on recommendations.[22] These are worrying trends in behaviour, which will lead to individuals making losses as they invest in spurious products in an unregulated market. Such findings should be the catalyst for an intervention, but no such response has materialised. The justifications for the FCA’s approach are not clear, but may be explained by their understanding of the demographic of cryptocurrency investors. In December 2019 the FCA claimed that 80% of cryptocurrency holdings in the UK were held by 1% of the population,[23] suggesting the industry is not popular enough to be of concern. 50% of those who had invested held less than £260,[24] which further suggests a low risk in terms of potential losses. The information from the FCA also suggested investors were well informed as 89% knew they were not protected, and 92% could identify a definition of a ‘cryptoasset’.[25] It appears that although research shows poor investment practices from consumers, the levels of money involved means the FCA does not see the need to regulate.

In conclusion, it appears as though cryptocurrencies and CSPs will remain largely unregulated, unless the FCA’s approach changes drastically. The legislation is in place to cover a degree of cryptocurrency activity, but this legislation does not appear to be being enforced. The FCA has only processed four entries onto its register of approved firms, out of 108 applicants, which is a poor performance. It appears as though the FCA does not hold cryptocurrencies in high regard and does not view the issue as affecting a large proportion of the population. The approach of the FCA has been lacklustre, which raises a number of questions as to the reasoning; a lack of understanding, a lack of available resources, or simply a low priority?

First published in the Open University Law, Information, Future, Technology Blog.


[1] The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019, SI 2019/1511.

[2] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘Registered Cryptoasset firms’ <https://register.fca.org.uk/s/search?predefined=CA> accessed 21 January 2021.

[3] The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (Amendment) Regulations 2019, SI 2019/1511 Regulation 14A(1).

[4] ibid at Regulation 14A(1)(a) and (b).

[5] ibid at Regulation 14A(1)(a).

[6] ibid at Regulation 14A(1)(b).

[7] ibid at Regulation 14A(2).

[8] ibid at Regulation 14A(2).

[9] ibid at Regulation 14A(2)(b).

[10] For an accessible explanation of public-key cryptography see: Robert Miles – Computerphile, ‘Public Key Cryptography’ (22 July 2014) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GSIDS_lvRv4> accessed 22 January 2021.

[11] For further details in types of wallet see: Bitcoin.org, ‘Choose your Bitcoin wallet’ <https://bitcoin.org/en/choose-your-wallet?step=1> accessed 22 January 2021.

[12] Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations 2017.

[13] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘Registered Cryptoasset firms’ <https://register.fca.org.uk/s/search?predefined=CA> accessed 21 January 2021.

[14] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘Cryptoasset firms with Temporary Registration’ (8 January 2021) <https://register.fca.org.uk/servlet/servlet.FileDownload?file=0154G0000062BtF> accessed 21 January 2021.

[15] ibid.

[16] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘Registered Cryptoasset firms’ <https://register.fca.org.uk/s/search?predefined=CA> accessed 21 January 2021.

[17] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘Cryptoassets’ (7 March 2019, last updated 11 January 2021) <https://www.fca.org.uk/consumers/cryptoassets> accessed 22 January 2021.

[18] ibid.

[19] ibid.

[20] Money Laundering Regulations 2017, Regulation 3.

[21] ibid Regulation 3(1)(d).

[22] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘How and why consumers buy cryptoassets: A report for the FCA’ (07 March 2019) <https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/research/how-and-why-consumers-buy-cryptoassets.pdf> accessed 22 January 2021 at p.47.

[23] Financial Conduct Authority, ‘Infographic: Cryptoasset consumer research 2020’ (December 2019) <https://www.fca.org.uk/publication/documents/crypto-assets-infographic.pdf> accessed 22 January 2021.

[24] ibid.

[25] ibid.

Course Connect partnership with LexisNexis Risk Solutions

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The Course Connect partnership between LexisNexis Risk Solutions and the University of the West of England (UWE) is an academia-industry collaboration that aims to bring together cutting-edge academic knowledge with leading commercial practice, for the mutual benefit of students, academics, researchers and practitioners. We caught up with Professor Nic Ryder to find out more.

What’s the aim of this partnership?

It’s a platform, in essence, for information and knowledge sharing. A formal partnership like this one makes it a great deal easier to share thinking and analysis of financial crime and compliance, financial risk management and anti-money laundering regulation, between organisations, for the benefit of both sides.

How does each side benefit?

Working with industry partners allows us access to valuable resources we’d otherwise not have. From real life case studies that can be implemented into the curriculum, to offering students the opportunity to work with the latest commercial information, trends and practices, as if they were already operating in the industry. This is not only highly motivating for them, but puts them in the driving seat following graduation. With support from commercial partners, we can set students in-depth challenges that often develop into dissertation projects, student internships and placements where they gain first-hand work experience.

In return, LNRS gains access to fresh insights and a rich seam of graduate talent they can offer placements and evaluate their potential for full-time employment opportunities, in many cases making an offer after the placement ends. LNRS also benefits from first-hand access to academic expertise and cutting-edge research outputs which can develop into webinars and round table style events that marry the academia and commercial worlds and provide a platform for healthy and insightful debate of current trends and topics surrounding the financial crime and compliance industry. Students’ input into these debates is a great way to identify the opinions of the future experts in these fields.

How important is industry collaboration in preparing graduates for the practical experiences they will face in industry?

UWE prides itself on providing students with the opportunity to study commercially-relevant subject areas where career paths are quite clear. We work closely with the commercial sector on embedded placements (sandwich years), consultation projects where students are set real-life industry challenges to solve, guest lectures from industry experts, and others – all opportunities for students to better understand how the theory they learn in class translates into the real world.

What does success look like for this partnership?

Success is long-term partnership resulting in a plethora of opportunities for both UWE Bristol and LNRS to work together. That can range from straightforward guest lectures, to student projects, competitions and dissertation projects, all the way through to internship opportunities that ultimately lead to graduate employment. As academics, we’re ultimately focussed on preparing these young people for their careers.

How many other Course Connect partnerships do you run?

We have 20 partnerships at present with a mix of public and private sector organisations ranging from large nationals like Lloyds Banking Group and Enterprise Rent-A-Car, to local and regional SMEs.

What do your other partners think of this process?

“We want young people to get a great start to their working life – sharing our experiences, knowledge and skills is a great way to make that happen. This approach supports our own organisational drive to ‘Help Britain Prosper.’” Lloyds Banking Group

“We are genuinely excited about the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from each other.” Nationwide

“This initiative… promises institution-wide recognition of our brand, as well as offering an opportunity to address known skills gaps in our industry.” Enterprise Rent-A Car

What does the future hold?

It’s important to see this as an evolving partnership. This first year is very much a ‘toe in the water’ for both sides, allowing us to understand what activities we are comfortable collaborating on and what won’t work for us. As time progresses, we very much hope that the relationship will develop to offer a much greater variety of activities and benefits for both sides.

Get involved. Contact us at courseconnect@uwe.ac.uk.

One Planet Development in Wales: A Sustainable Future?

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Written by Rachel Kelway-Lewis, LLM and member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group

The Institute of Public Policy Research[1] of UK has urged that ‘the historical disregard of environmental considerations in most areas of policy has been a catastrophic mistake’[2] which suggests that policy, in many instances, is failing to protect the environment. Thus, as international obligations prioritises the need for policy to promote sustainability[3] it seems necessary to begin analysing the policies which claim to do so.

One Planet Development

The Welsh Assembly Government has created the One Planet Development policy[4] (hereafter referred to as OPD) with the objective of adhering to global sustainable development targets. The OPD policy aims to encourage individuals, families and co-operatives alike to create residential developments that are either low impact, or do not significantly degrade the environment.[5] Such developments are required to meet 65% of the residents’ basic needs from the land within the first five years, including income, energy and food. The mere creation of such a policy could be deemed an achievement, however in practice, the policy appears to be facing some challenges.

OPD Challenges

The flow chart below identifies the key concerns challenging the policy’s implementation, and classifies the concerns as legal, non-legal, and procedural. The flow chart visualises the issues, the result of the issues and, the underlying constraint.

It is evident that the content of OPD policy[6] has the potential to intrinsically meet all three pillars of sustainable development (i.e., economic, social and environmental), however implementation related challenges may be restricting this. Research suggests that there is a resource deficiency within local planning authorities which is affecting the policy’s implementation from planning applications to monitoring OPD settlements’ progress. Thus, the policy cannot be successful without additional resources or a change in the policy’s specifications.[7] Despite efforts to support participants through the application process[8] as well as training being offered to planning authorities specifically for OPD developments,[9] there remains a gap which has not been addressed. Demands upon local planning authorities are likely to grow and exceed their capacity.[10] Furthermore, without addressing the challenges, the OPD is unlikely to achieve its’ objectives thus, will not promote the aims of ‘One Wales: One Planet’.[11]

Moving forward

The following reforms have been suggested to ensure that the solutions are feasible, ranging from providing mandatory online training to reducing the reporting obligations of established OPDs. Whilst these reforms are focused upon accessible improvements to the OPD policy, long-term reform is essential.

  • Community land trust

The Calon Cymru report identified the challenges associated with funding and finding suitable land due to increased prices.[12] Thus, the short-term reform suggestion to promote community land trusts is based upon a successful case in London[13] and more recently, the prospective plan to establish the first Welsh community land trusts in Solva, Pembrokeshire.[14] Furthermore, by creating community land trusts partnerships with housing associations such as Ateb[15] and ceiling prices on land for such projects, funds and prices could be more accessible. Such reform could benefit the community, promote UN Sustainable Development Goals 11,[16] the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act[17] and the ‘Improving lives and Communities, homes in Wales’ scheme[18] throughout Wales. 

  • Public Transport

The long-term regional reform of improving public transport links within rural Wales could result in additional suitable land being accessible for such projects. Such improvements could also support many of Wales’ objectives at all levels, from the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act[19] to the Paris Agreement[20] and UN Sustainable Development Goals 11.2.[21]

  • Low carbon building

Nationally, more must be done to promote accessible, low-carbon building. This could be achieved by mainstreaming environmentally conscious building methods and utilising training programmes to educate trades people. Furthermore, the establishment of ‘green mortgage’ can promote and incentivise low-carbon building for the public as seen in the Netherlands.[22]

Concluding comments

The fundamental constraint identified is a lack of resources, the impact of which is significant. Challenges associated with the resource deficiency range from inconsistent implementation[23] to failures of OPD settlements to submit reports.[24] The policy will require additional funding to meet its objectives, however in the short-term practical solutions could elevate the strain. Such reforms have been discussed to ensure that the solutions are feasible. Whilst the suggestions are focused upon accessible improvements to the OPD policy, long-term reform is essential specifically with regards to the resource deficiency.

This article is a brief summary of a document titled ‘One Planet Development: a sustainable future? A critical analysis of whether the One Planet Development Policy promotes the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11 (Sustainable communities)’ which has been published by Lammas.


[1] Institute for public policy research, ‘This is a crisis facing up to the age of environmental breakdown’, Institute for Public Policy Research, February 2019, available at: https://www.ippr.org/files/2019-02/risk-and-environment-feb19.pdf

[2] Ibid.

[3] United Nations, The Millennium Development Goals Report 2012 (New York, 2012).

[4] Welsh Assembly Government, ‘Technical Advice note 6’ (Planning for sustainable rural communities, July 2010), available at: https://gov.wales/docs/desh/policy/100722tan6en.pdf

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] One Planet Council, ‘The One Planet Council’ (Supporting One Planet Developments, no-date), available at: http://www.oneplanetcouncil.org.uk/about-the-one-planet-council/

[9] Welsh Assembly Government, ‘Technical Advice note 6’ (Planning for sustainable rural communities, July 2010), available at: https://gov.wales/docs/desh/policy/100722tan6en.pdf

[10] BBC, ‘Put a stop to eco-homes being built, says councillor’, BBC news, 29 April 2019. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-48084556

[11] Welsh Assembly Government, ‘The Sustainable Development Scheme of the Welsh Assembly Government’ (One Wales: One Planet, May 2009), available at: http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/documents/829/One%20Wales-%20One%20Planet%20%282009%29.pdf

[12] Calon Cymru Network, ‘Feasibility of a resilient neighbourhood at Llandovery’ (Affordable Homes and Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Wales, 2017), available at: http://www.caloncymru.org/uploads/1/4/9/3/14932334/affordablehomessustainablelivelihoodsruralwales.pdf  

[13] Emma Howard, ‘ Could community land trusts offer a solution to the UK’s housing crisis?’ (The Guardian, 25 June 2014), available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jun/25/community-land-trusts-uk-housing-crisis-east-london-mile-end

[14] Becky Hotchin, ‘Solva Community Land Trust wins Pembrokeshire County Council second home council tax grant’, The Western Telegraph, 10th October 2020.

[15] Ibid.

[16] United Nations, Transforming our world: The 2030 agenda for sustainable development (New York, 2015) No. A/RES/7011.

[17] Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, available at: https://www.futuregenerations.wales/about-us/future-generations-act/

[18] Gov.wales, ‘Homes in Wales’ (Improving Lives and Communities, 2010), available at: https://gweddill.gov.wales/docs/desh/publications/100421housingstrategyen.pdf  

[19] Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, available at: https://www.futuregenerations.wales/about-us/future-generations-act/

[20] The Paris Agreement (2015), available at: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement

[21] United Nations, SDG 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, available at: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/cities/

[22] UK Committee on Climate Change, ‘UK housing: Fit for the future?’ (2019), available at: https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/uk-housing-fit-for-the-future/

[23] Louise Kulbicki, ‘Does Welsh National Planning Policy effectively address Low Impact Development in the open countryside?’ (2011) 6. Available at: http://lammas.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Does_Welsh_National_Planning_Policy_effectively_address_Low_Impact_Development_in_the_open_countryside_Louise_Kulbicki_2011.pdf

[24] BBC, ‘Put a stop to eco-homes being built, says councillor’, BBC news, 29 April 2019. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-48084556

Rights redacted – a global view

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By Ezinwa Awogu – BA philosophy graduate, current GDL Law student at UWE Bristol and aspiring solicitor 

With the UK’s announcement of approval for the Pfizer vaccine, a cautious sense of hope and optimism has been restored as the public dares to envision an end to a year rife with uncertainty and confusion. However, as technology and science leap forward in their red capes as the saviours of the day, democracy around the globe takes several staggering steps back. A combination of draconian restriction implementation, global confusion, economic downfall and, widespread fear, has created the perfect storm for abuse of power and democratic regress to take place throughout the world. Under the thick cover of chaos, oppressive legislation and disgraceful abuses of power have been able to take place largely un-reported. Due to the unrelenting dominance that COVID-19 has wielded over the news headlines this year, regressions and oppressions have been able to thrive, unchallenged by the usual scrutiny of the public eye.

According to this year’s annual global report on political rights and civil liberties from Freedom House, democracy has worsened in 80 countries so far. Particular areas of decline seem to be freedom of speech, democratic elections (especially in countries declaring a state of emergency), and freedom of religious practice. Whilst true that a lot of false and misleading information was spread about COVID-19 and how to treat it, some governments have used the excuse of limiting inaccurate information to go above and beyond to restrict journalistic rights and push political agendas by silencing anti-government voices. Democratic elections have been postponed or discarded altogether and government opposition parties have been systematically attacked under the excuse of the pandemic.

Earlier this year in Algeria, legislation aimed to reduce media and curtail freedom of expression were reportedly passed with ‘minimal discussion mechanisms’ in parliament. Further to this, the sentencing of three government critics took place in May due to their choice of social media activity. Amongst these was Yacine Mebarki, a pivotal member of the Hirak anti-government protest movement, arrested on September 30th and sentenced to 10 years in prison. An expression of concern has been published by Reporters Without Borders, over the zealous tightening on freedoms of expression in Algeria. However, no change seems imminent, as currently the scheduled Algerian 2020 constitutional referendum has been announced as ‘no longer a priority’ by President Tebboune.

Similarly, according to published interior ministry statements from Turkey, on the 25th of March over 400 people were arrested under charges of ‘provocative’ social media posts concerning the virus. A report by Human Rights Watch four months later in late July displayed evidence suggesting Turkish police involvement in torture and ill-treatment of citizens. In terms of parliamentary democracy, the revocation of status was implemented for three deputies in the opposition party on the 4th of June. All three were then arrested the very next day. Electoral law reformations that may prevent future opposition parties from entering parliament at all are currently under discussion. Should this move forward, it would mean that without opposition in parliament, the government (and legislature passed by the government) goes unchecked and unchallenged, thus, an already fragile democracy suffers another critical blow.

In Hong Kong, The pandemic has been sighted as justification to delay elections by a year, however, this decision is widely viewed as an attempt by Beijing to buy more time to solidify the eradication of certain remaining freedoms and autonomies. In Sri Lanka, the arrest of critics of the official government line of the pandemic has been authorized by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. In Nigeria since the start of restriction implementation and curfews, up to 18 people have been killed in the hands of security forces reportedly enforcing COVID-19 restrictions with minimal reported penalties against the individual offending security officers. Meanwhile, the Nigerian democratic by-elections for the senatorial districts in Bayelsa state, Imo state, and Plateau state have been indefinitely postponed with no new date announced. In the USA, although the scheduled presidential elections have taken place, the incumbent Trump administration consistently and embarrassingly attempts to discredit the result of the democratic election in an attempt to cling to a fading political spotlight.

In Russia, a combination of laws implementing drastic penalties on individuals and media organizations who spread ‘knowingly false information’ was approved by President Vladimir Putin, on top of the already existing prohibition of ‘false information’. In practice, however, it would seem that said ‘false information’ happens to include anything that may highlight failings and present criticisms of the government’s handling of COVID-19. Most worryingly, this year’s referendum – originally set for April but rescheduled for the 1st of July – was approved by a 77% majority and includes provision amendments allowing President Putin to remain in power until 2036.

Restrictions on freedom of religion have been more evident this year with instances of faith-based discrimination and religious targeting in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Serbia, and India. In Pakistan COVID -19 has been renamed ‘the Shia virus’ and there have been reports of Christians forced to recite the kalima in order to access help and aid. Hindu communities in Lyari have been rejected from receiving essential rations and Muslims in India have been labelled as “super spreaders” in a bid to use the pandemic as a weapon of religious prosecution.

This is of course simply a snapshot exposing only a fraction of the hidden pandemic of global rights redaction taking place. Fragile democratic advancements – some of which took over a decade or longer to instil – have been swiftly and devastatingly destroyed by opportunistic governments all over the world, using the tragedy of this year as an advantageous edge in disgraceful power-play dynamics. Meanwhile, citizens are stripped of hard-fought rights and left more vulnerable than ever before. As an end to COVID-19 seems to become more of a reality, we must not forget that for many around the globe, things will certainly not return to ‘business as usual’. Perhaps, with the potential of COVID-19 soon no longer dominating the media platform, the scrutiny of the public eye can return to where it is desperately needed most, and assist each of the 80 countries through the steep uphill climb to the restoration of civil liberties and democratic progression.

Useful Reference links

  1. https://freedomhouse.org/report/special-report/2020/democracy-under-lockdown
  2. https://freedomhouse.org/article/new-report-democracy-under-lockdown-impact-covid-19-global-freedom
  3. https://www.idea.int/gsod-indices//#/indices/countries-regions-profile?rsc=%5B770%5D&covid19=1
  4. https://www.economist.com/international/2020/10/17/the-pandemic-has-eroded-democracy-and-respect-for-human-rights
  5. https://www.idea.int/news-media/news/malawi-victory-democracy-after-euphoria-long-hard-work
  6. https://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/turk-evacuated-sweden-coronavirus-treatment-70361281
  7. https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/10/8/algeria-sentences-activist-to-10-years-for-inciting-atheism

What role can the Ramsar Convention play in protecting Lake Urmia in Iran?

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Written by Siavash Ostovar, Doctoral Student and a member of the Environmental Law and Sustainability Research Group

Lake Urmia located in the north-western part of Iran between the two provinces of East-Azerbaijan and West-Azerbaijan was declared a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 1971 and designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Biosphere Reserve in 1976. It is also designated as a ‘National Park’ in Iran. The Lake is drying out and it is in its worst condition ever. Over the years, the water level has been declining continuously and there are different reasons causing such degradation.

The direct drivers (i.e., climate change, highway and dam constructions around the Lake, over-exploitation of water) and indirect drivers (i.e., growth of agriculture in the region and inefficient irrigation methods and poor water management) have been considered as the causes of wetlands’ degradation. The shrinking of Lake has also led to detrimental consequences such as climate change in the region, agricultural degradation, threats to human health, migration problems, threats to the tourism industry, threats to flora, fauna and habitats.

Accordingly, my research investigated the effectiveness of the legal regulations of the ecosystem of Lake Urmia. To study the effectiveness of the legal regulation around the Lake Urmia, a complex array of international and national legal provisions which to a large extent converges around the Ramsar Convention were scrutinised. This convention was signed in 1971, in Ramsar City, Iran. The Convention focuses on ‘wetlands’ and how States should ensure their management, conservation and stewardship. Lake Urmia is indeed 722 Km (448 mi) from Ramsar City.[1] The Ramsar Convention is considered the first global agreement to address the conservation and enhancement of wetlands as a particular part of the ecosystem.[2] The Ramsar Convention is the intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.[3] Since 1975, almost 90% of UN member states, from all the world’s geographic regions, have acceded to become ‘Contracting Parties’.[4] UNESCO is responsible for the adoption of the Ramasar Convention and performs secretariat functions.  

In my research, the drying up of Lake Urmia is used as an example to study the weaknesses of the international and national rules and regulations aiming at protecting the environment in general and wetlands in particular. In highlighting the local effects of such a crisis, the thesis argued that there is an urgent need for global action to preserve such essential environmental assets across the world. We all depend on the natural world for our survival, so every environmental degradation becomes a concern touching us all.

In order to investigate the opportunities and challenges to implement the Ramsar Convention in Iran, my research focused on the following concepts and provisions of the Ramsar Convention:

  • Definition of the wetlands (Articles 1 and 2)
  • Listing approach (Article 2)
  • Exclusive sovereign right (Article 2)
  • Wise use (Article 3)
  • Ecological character of wetlands (Article 3)
  • Information exchange (Article 4)
  • Financial resources (Article 6)
  • NGO participation (Articles 7 and 8)

The thesis showed that a successful plan for conservation and sustainable use of Lake Urmia and their resources and for the benefit of present and future generations needs a rigorous study of the current condition of the Lake in combination with an in-depth analysis of their feasibility concerning existing legal, political, administrative constraints. Hence, in Iran, it is crucial to regularly review the national laws on/related to wetlands management, share information between involved legal bodies, designate a competent body to wetlands management, and ensure political support for effective national laws and policies on wetlands.


[1] Behrah , ‘ Ramsar route to Urmia’ ( Behrah ) < http://behrah.com/direction.php?sid=473&did=28>

[2] Sands P and Peel J, ‘Principles of International Environmental Law’ (3rd end, Cambridge University Press 2018) 492-493.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ramsar Secretariat, ‘ About the Ramsar Convention’ ( Ramsar.org 2014) < https://www.ramsar.org/about-the-ramsar-convention>

The contagion of disinformation

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By Ezinwa Awogu – BA philosophy graduate, GDL Law student at UWE Bristol and aspiring solicitor 

More connected than ever, information spreads instantaneously, and amongst that information, none seems to spread quite as viciously as disinformation. To be distinguished from misinformation, disinformation, as defined in 1952 by the great soviet encyclopaedia, is information deliberately designed to spread falsehoods for the deception of the public, usually with an underlining agenda for political, social, or economic gain. Disinformation is often more entertaining, and attention-grabbing than reality, and there it finds its strength over real news. Between the COVID-19 health crisis and the highly influential USA presidential election, we have seen myths, conspiracy theories, and disinformation erupt like wildfires. As the global pandemic has forced increased digitization, a higher rate of IT reliance, and an increased online presence, people are liking, sharing, re-tweeting, and subscribing more and more. The conditions are prime for the contagion of disinformation to spread within the algorithm networks of our social media and news provider outlets.

Battling disinformation in democratic countries is a delicate task, often fraught with debate and controversy. The right of freedom of expression under the common law was incorporated into domestic law in 1998 from the European convention, and the right to freedom of expression (subject to certain formalities, conditions, restrictions, and penalties) was ratified by Article 10 of the Human rights act (1998). Many of these restrictions, however, are intentionally broad and appear to have a high degree of subjectivity making them difficult to apply strictly. This broadness can make it hard to police media content, which on one hand rightly protects freedom of expression but on the other makes it more difficult to identify and combat disinformation. Section 127 of the communications Act (2003) criminalizes the use of an electronic communications network to put out messaging that is ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene, or menacing character’. However, in practice, enforcement is largely absent, as we all know, offensive and obscene content has flooded electronic communication networks for a long time with few criminal actions brought forward.

COVID-19 conspiracy theories, such as the idea that the virus is part of an elaborate government plan to increase observations and curtail rights, started around January and has culminated in mass no-mask protests with many swearing that the pandemic is fake. Whilst true that the response to the virus has been confusing and unclear on many accounts, the deliberate efforts of some to persist in the spread of conspiracy disinformation works to distract from the reality of the inequalities that the virus had illuminated. Realities such as the disproportionate effect on BAME communities and the worldwide devastating disparities in social welfare and healthcare that the virus has exacerbated are therefore pushed to the wayside with attention-grabbing disinformation headlines taking the spotlight.

The efforts in the summer months by the outgoing Trump administration, amongst other world leaders, to spread disinformation, hailing hydroxychloroquine as a ‘miracle cure’ based on insufficient evidence and inadequate testing, served the political ulterior motive to use hope and optimism as a distraction from criticisms of poor handling of the pandemic. We can see similar attempts to capitalize on the pandemic when we observe the Russian disinformation campaign labelling the Oxford vaccine as the ‘monkey vaccine’ in favour of the Russian vaccine, conspicuously named Sputnik. Most recently, the current saga of electoral fraud claims during the recent USA elections attempts to delegitimize the incoming Biden presidency and stoke the fire for social and political upheaval.

In England and Wales, Law aiding the efficient battle of disinformation is scarce. Ofcom, established under the Communications Act (2003) is a regulatory body set up to enforce certain content standards across TV and radio broadcasting, ensuring accuracy and impartiality, but there is currently no regulatory body set up for social media and online content in the same way, which has become a major source of information communication. There have been proposals to change this, and introduce more regulation and accountability in online platforms, namely in the 2019 Cairncross Review report. Nothing concrete has amounted from this as of yet. Social media outlets have recently been taking it upon themselves, in response to public pressure, to internally implement regulations on the content published on their sights. During the ongoing voter election disinformation campaign, Twitter has been flagging up tweets from outgoing president Donald Trump as misleading. Other popular social media sights such as Facebook and Instagram have displayed instances of some resistance to disinformation, but this has been limited and certainly not widespread enough to effectively battle the contagion of disinformation.

A strong argument can be made in favour of social media giants exercising more of their social responsibility and offering more content regulation. However, constitutional protection of freedom of expression limits the allowance for online content restriction, and admittedly, the more content policing happens, the less freedom is available. Finding the delicate line between personal liberty and public interest is an age-old dilemma that has not appeared to be solved as of yet, so it would seem for the moment that the responsibility lies largely with us the audience. In an age where information is so easily weaponized, it is important to be conscientious consumers with regards to the plethora of information flooding our screens. More than ever, active engagement, independent research, and a degree of critical analysis must be essential activity when choosing which information to accept and which sources to trust. We can no longer afford to be passive recipients of information that may harbor active ulterior agendas.

Useful Reference links

  1. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/05/technology/donald-trump-twitter.html
  2. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/russians-spread-fake-news-over-oxford-coronavirus-vaccine-2nzpk8vrq
  3. https://www.loc.gov/law/help/social-media-disinformation/uk.php
  4. https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zyt282p/revision/2
  5. https://www.statnews.com/2020/06/15/fda-revokes-hydroxychloroquine/
  6. https://www.kcl.ac.uk/investigating-the-most-convincing-covid-19-conspiracy-theories
  7. https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2003/21/section/127