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SARAH VINE: Entitled Sir Nick Clegg (vice-president of global affairs at Facebook) is the Prince Harry of politics

 

Here's a quiz question: which titled (and entitled) member of the Establishment has turned his back on the realities of life at home to live a life of unimaginable luxury in a wealthy Californian suburb, unencumbered by awkward questions from the British press and insulated from the real world by wealth and power?

Prince Harry, I hear you cry.

But for once that’s not who I’m talking about. I speak of none other than Sir Nick Clegg, former Deputy Prime Minister of this parish and now vice-president of global affairs at Facebook.

Admittedly Sir Nick has not done quite as well as Prince Harry. His £7 million mansion in the wealthy Silicon Valley suburb of Atherton boasts a mere five bedrooms compared to Harry’s 14.


But when it comes to everything else, the two men are remarkably similar. Harry for the way he complains about privacy and then bares his soul on TV. And Clegg for the way he has set aside all his previous lofty principles in order to take Mark Zuckerberg’s shilling.

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised. 

After all, this was the man who broke his pledge on tuition fees and who, when he finally did get a pop at power, proved himself to have the spine of a whelk. 

But for someone who made a great show of wanting to tighten the screws on Britain’s free press in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry (he even fell out with his Coalition partner, David Cameron, on the issue) it’s rich to now be defending the cowboy practices of Facebook.

Because make no mistake: Facebook is a far more rapacious force than any British red-top tabloid. 

Unregulated, unscrupulous and unashamed, not only does it facilitate the spreading of conspiracy theories and unsubstantiated rumours without accepting responsibility for the repercussions, it is becoming increasingly clear that it will also stop at nothing to defend its right to do so – and turn eye-watering profits into the bargain.

Witness the company’s response to the Australian government’s valiant but ultimately futile attempts to get it to remunerate providers for the information it uses – information which, while it costs Facebook nothing, is nevertheless what drives its huge advertising revenues.

 

How does Prince Harry prances about with James Corden tally with the couple's desire for privacy

Faced with having to stump up for content, Facebook simply switched off access to news for its Australian users. Eventually the two parties reached an agreement. But not before the government’s proposals had been significantly watered down.

Yet even the fact that Facebook could take such action in the first place constitutes an egregious abuse of power. 

Some might even call it blackmail. 

Something you might expect from the Soviet Mafia (maybe they learned a few tricks from hosting all that Russian-backed election disinformation few years back); but not from an organisation that styles itself as a benign, touchy-feely user-facing service. Which reminds me: Sir Nick. Wasn’t he king of the touchy-feely user-facing politicians?

And thirdly, and perhaps most seriously, how does prancing around on the top of a bus with James Corden and FaceTiming each other with pet names tally with the couple’s expressed desire for privacy?

Service is universal, Harry and Meghan reminded the Queen last week. Indeed it is. 

For example, Sophie Wessex quietly helping out St John’s Ambulance during the pandemic. 

Can’t do that from the top of a tour bus in California, can you?

 

 Source: Daily Mail

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