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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Home Office bans access to annoying web forum

A few years ago I was around when Whitehall webbies drew up guidance on social media use.

At the time the guidance was well received by everybody. It was common sensical, it was written in plain English, it fulfilled its brief -- it didn't piss off any interests. Blogging was being developed across government, seen as an existential part of communications.

Here's what that has turned into at the Foreign Office and here's my old mucker Jeremy Gould, one of the men from the Ministry who pushed it all along, covering its early development.

That straightforward guidance has been developed on, applied elsewhere, and here [pdf] is what was drawn up by civil servants at the Ministry of Justice and it covers judges, amongst others.

Now, the Home Office has decided that those judges cannot write anonymous comments, perhaps even read them, on this forum and this forum alone:
The Free Movement forum is a private, progressive space in which immigration lawyers, campaigners, academics, students and select others can help one another and discuss any or all immigration, asylum, nationality and human rights law questions and policy. It is restricted to members only and cannot be viewed by the public. It is not open to those who work for or with the Home Office.
You think this forum's Home Office worker ban might have something to do with it?

One is reminded of the playground. The guy behind the forum correctly labels this action "hysterical overkill":
Singling out particular websites for banning orders probably isn’t the right way forward. It is flattering to think that Free Movement is a special case in some way because of its wide readership amongst immigration lawyers and judges. It is just a blog and forum after all, though, not a cesspit of moral turpitude. Will a blacklist of other banned sites be maintained somewhere? Are immigration judges also to be banned from socialising where only claimant lawyers are present at a gathering? Will they be forbidden from being in the same room as a Home Office Presenting Officer where no one else is present? Will they be banned from professional or other organisations from which Home Office civil servants are excluded? What about judges in other areas of law?
They also block Free Movement forum and blog access for immigration detainees. Can't have the illegals communicating, or reading certain information can we?
The ban seems a shame. Some interesting tidbits are emerging on the forum already ... Immigration judges remain welcome readers of the main blog, at least so long as they aren’t banned from looking at it as well.
I wouldn't put it past them ...

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