21/06/2011 Newsnight


In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Jeremy Paxman.

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Tonight we report from inside Syria, the Government there has banned


independent foreign reporting. So Sue Lloyd Roberts has been there


undercover. On the road to Damascus, she meets


the ordinary Syrians whose stories have not been heard before.


TRANSLATION: They gave us the orders to fire heavily at unarmed


people, we were surprised to be told to shoot randomly, no


distinction between women, children, armed or unarmed men, many, many


were killed. What lies behind the demonstrations which the Government


says are the work merely of saboteur, and how has the regime


reacted? TRANSLATION: After they tortured me, they put me in


solitary, it was so small, I was made to stand, I couldn't sit down


of the they beat me with electric batons.


Also tonight, as the Greek parliament faces a critical vote in


the next few minutes and the mob outside watches and waits, will


Helenic shivers lead to a second global crash. The issue is simple,


will tax-payers end up bailing out the bankers yet again?


We're joined by guests who know to beware of Greeks bearing gilts. Is


the Justice Secretary now the prisoner of Downing Street.


Ever wondered why sometimes Google seems to deliver exactly what you


wanted to hear? Instead of cyberspace widening our horizon, is


it trapping us in our own little bubbles.


State television in Syria broadcast news of the uprising in the country


today. Or else it broadcast pictures that it said proved


foreign troublemakers were misrepresenting the Syrian people's


fanatical devotion to President Assad. According to activist, his


troops opened fire on demonstrators in various cities, killing perhaps


seven people, including another 13- year-old boy. We know none of this


for certain, of course, because the regime refuses to allow foreign


journalists free access. So Sue Lloyd Roberts has been in Damascus


on news Newsnight's behalf, It was surprisingly easy to get


into the country. Posing as a tourist, with a small camera. But


once here in Damascus, the difficulties began. If I booked


into an hotel, I was told I would be followed. My contacts took me to


an empty flat in a suburb of the city. To accommodate a journalist


at home would put them in jail, they explained. I had to lock the


doors and keep the blinds drawn. I have to sit here in hiding for


hours at a time, waiting to get a message from one of the activists


I'm working with here, to tell me when it is safe enough to go into


Damascus to meet with them. It is a frustrating way to report on the


uprising here in Syria, but not as difficult as it is for those who


are trying to bring about change in this country.


I soon found I wasn't alone in my predicament, nearly everyone I met


was on the run or in hiding, from Syria's Mukhabarat, the secret


police. Political activists are now


scattered around the city, in borrowed rooms and flats. I found


this 26-year-old journalists hide anything a friend's apartment, he


had just written his will. TRANSLATION: Prison was terrifying,


they tortured me, they put me in solitary confinement, they beat me


with electric baton, they spat at me said my career was over.


His crime was to cast doubt on the President's promise of reform. What


does he think real reform is? TRANSLATION: The people of Syria


dream of living in a country that is free, where there was a rule of


law without a dictatorship, and where our lives are not ruled by


the security forces. Aliya, the mother of a young


daughter, had to go into hiding after leading a group of women


demonstrators. Why did she do it? TRANSLATION: I don't want my


daughter to grow up like I did, having always to say something in


one place, and something else in another. I want her to be free. I


want her to say what she wants, where she wants, when she wants. My


daughter watches the TV, and she hears us chanting, "people want the


downfall of the regime". In her innocence she repeated this in


school, and the teacher got really angry, and shouted at her, and told


her she had to praise the President. Life in Syria is dominated by the


weekly protests after Friday prayers. Who will go? Who will risk


being killed by army snipers. Will they survive to return home


afterwards. It's Thursday evening, the eve of what's become protest


day here in Syria, and people are dashing home before the roadblocks


are set up between the suburbs of Damascus and the city itself. The


last thing authorities want is for people to converge on the city,


recreating the Damascus equivalent of Cairo's Tahrir Square. Even here


in the prosperous middle-class suburb, you can tell how many


security guards patrol the streets, by the number of times I'm told to


hide my camera. People here tell you a mass demonstration in


Damascus would not be like Egypt, it would be massacre. But for


opposition leader, Riad Seif, the weekly protests are the highlight


of his week. I am 65 years old now, and I have cancer, but I enjoy so


much going to demonstrate every Friday with these youth, which I


see in them the future of Syria. Once I was caught and I was beaten


very, very hard. When Bashar al-Assad first came to


power ten years ago, he asked opposition leaders, like Seif, to


help him introduce reform. When Seif suggested a genuine democracy


he was imprisoned. Syria belongs to the Syrians, it


doesn't belong to the Al-Assad family. This, let's say, Al-Assad


family forever, should have been stopped, it is enough.


While I was in Damascus, there were pro-regime demonstration, and they


are happening with increasing regularity. Attended by thousands


of ordinary people, and not just those from the ruling Shia minority.


I went back to the hideout, the journalist, and asked him who the


President's supporters are? TRANSLATION: Like every country


there are people who benefit from the regime. There are two million


security personnel in Syria, if they alone came out, that would be


the biggest pro-regime rally ever. Yesterday President Assad repeated


that his country was bedevilled by saboteurs. The regime alternate in


accusing the protestors of being inspired by Israel, and at other


times, they are accused of being part of an Islamic fundamentalist


plot. Is there any truth in that? TRANSLATION: When I went out to


protest, I did not hear any purely Islamic chants. Everyone was


chanting, "Allah, Syria, freedom", that is what we want. Everyone was


chanting for freedom. There are Syrian who is are quite religious,


but they do not impose religious beliefs on you.


So far the biggest demonstrations have taken place outside the


capital city. In cities like Homs and ham matter, where thousands


have attended rallies, despite the risks. Army brutality has been


bravely documented by those wielding the weapon of this


revolution, the mobile phone. The beatings and the killings have


been indiscriminate. Methed out to adults and children


alike. - meted out to adults and churn


alike. The most painful image of which is the abduction, torture and


murder of a 13-year-old. Occasionally it has become too much


for soldiers. This man could no longer take orders from his


commanding officer and fled to neighbouring Lebanon. All Syrians


taking refuge here asked not to be identified, they hope to return one


day. TRANSLATION: They gave us the


orders to fire heavily at unwarmed people. We were surprised to be


told to shoot randomly, no distinction between women, children,


armed and unarmed men. Many, many were killed, all unarmed civilians.


Our commanding officers said there is so much ammunition, keep


shooting, there is so much no-one will ask where it went. I would


fire in the air or at empty buildings, because I knew if they


found out I wasn't firing at people, they would detain me in a secret


location or kill me. The refugees in eastern Lebanon can see the


Syrian troops across the border, it was the threat that these men now


pose to the women of Syria, which forced him to leave the country.


TRANSLATION: I left my home to protect my honour. The men will


defend the land, but I have to defend my honour. When we talk to


our relatives in neighbouring town, they tell us horrifying stories,


they told us that so many women were raped, those who can't escape


are trapped. The soldiers don't fear God.


In Syria, the violence continues. Latest pictures from the city of


Homs, show soldiers in an armoured personnel carrier, firing on


apparently unarmed demonstrators. Activists say there were seven


deaths in all. Three months on and hundreds dead, who is winning here?


TRANSLATION: The people are winning every day. Every day the regime


loses another city. TRANSLATION: We're paying a very high pri, but


we are winning. - Price, but we are winning. My main wish is seeing


Syria free before I die. I was struggling for years for that. I'm


sure it will not be so long that I'm very optimistic I will see it.


You don't see groups of people in Syria, because if more than ten or


twelve gather, they are likely to be arrested.


In August it will be Ramadan, when thousands will come together to


attend daily prayer. This, people here tell you, is when the real


revolution will begin. The Foreign Office minister, John


Birt, is in our Westminster - Alistair Burt, is in our


Westminster studio. We are already taking military action in Libya to


protect civilians, is there any danger of doing something similar


in Syria? I don't think so, at the moment it is difficult to get the


UN Security Council to issue a resolution on condemnation on what


is happening. We are working with France, with Germany, with Portugal,


to put forward a resolution to condemn the action. But the truth


is, unlike Libya, there is not the same international consensus. The


Arab League is more conflicted in its response, the Russians and the


Chinese have already said they would veto. Unfortunately we cannot


get the sort of condemnation we need for what you have seen. Which


gives the lie to what President Assad has said about what he claims


is happening in Syria. Effectively our foreign policy is made in


Moscow or various capitals signed up to the Arab League? That is a


misinterpretation, you know that full well. We are pushing as hard


as we can through the EU for the various sanctions. Why are we


failing so conspicuously? We are not failing. We haven't done


anything yet? We can't on our own get a UN resolution through


countries who don't want it. Demonstrablely we can't do it


through the French? The French support what we do, a range of


countries support a UN resolution, some things are not within our


control. We are pressing as hard as we can at the UN. I don't think


anyone will watch the report that you have seen and say some how this


is all the UK's fault, that is willful misinterpretation of what


we have seen. No-one is suggesting that. Let me ask a simple question,


should President Assad go? should either reform or get out of


the way. Whren you judge that he is genuine - when will you judge he's


genuine about reforming, yesterday he said he would reform? The speech


yesterday is disappointing. There is no sense at the moment he is


about reform. What he needed to do yesterday was release the political


prisoners, the access to the country to foreign media, to


humanitarian relief. How many chances are you going to give this


man before saying you have to go? don't think we're in the position


of giving chances. We have already taken action, targeted sanctions


against him and other members of the regime. We are press to go get


more sanctions at European Council this week, we are working with


others to do things at the United Nations. This is not something we


have entirely within our own gift. We are doing everything we can.


me ask you specifically about something happening on the streets


of this capital city right now. We have been approached by various


members of Syrian society, who are in London, who have taken part in


protests against the Al-Assad regime, who have found that the


Syrian embassy have been sending people to take their photographs


and those photographs have then been shown to their families in


Syria, with a clear intent of intimidating them. Will you call


the ambassador in and tell him to stop doing it? This is quite wrong.


We have taken action in the past against diplomats who threatened


people in this country, and we would do so again. I have heard of


these allegations during the course of this evening, we will be


investigating, they must be investigated by the police. If we


had evidence that people were being intimidated in this country by


diplomats working for another country, we have taken action


before and we will do so again. Will you call the ambassador in and


tell him so? We have regular ambassador to pass various messages


about what is happening in Syria. Once we have had an opportunity to


investigate these allegations, he might well be coming in again.


Thank you. Now the Greek Government is still


waiting for the result was a crucial confidence vote in


parliament which is taking place about now. Even if the vote pass,


that won't mean an end to the crisis. - passes that won't mean an


end to the crisis. They have to get through public spending cuts, tax


hikes and privatisations, with plenty of Greeks saying they should


refuse and refault on their debt. The European Union is desperately


trying to find out how much damage that would do to banks in the rest


of the continent. With some people saying it could spark another


crisis in capitalism. Let's figure out how the dominos could go down


with Paul Mason now. The Greeks defaulting on the debt? We are


hoping by the time we have finished the programme they will have a


Government. Which they didn't have over the weekend, that would put


them one step ahead of Belgium. It is not the Government they need. It


is an austerity plan that the European Union agrees with enough


to give them money. Now they are trying to pass the austerity plan


through parliament next Tuesday. Since the parliament will be at


that point thronged with tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of


them will be intent on violence, it is highly likely that will be a


much tighter vote. If they don't pass the austerity plan the


European Union demands, and even if they pass it and don't execute it,


this is what raises the issue of default.


Tonight's vote is not the main event. The main event comes when


the Greek parliament has to vote on the austerity package already


agreed with the EU. That slashs 278 billion euro office Greece's budget


over four years. The public sector will shrink from 53% of GDP to 44%


n just six years, it still leaves the country with debts 150% of its


national output. Greek ministers are determined to


push it through. The unions and protestors determined to oppose it,


a centre right opposition determined to change it. And


default, quite simply, is what happens if the protestors win.


with this second Greek bailout, Greece will run out of money in a


few year's time. The economy simply isn't growing, they will not have


enough cash to fund themselves post 2014, meaning they will default any


way, it is better to do it now in an orderly fashion. In Brussels,


the battle is between those who insist that the banks should lose


money if Greece defaults and those, like this man, from the ECB who say


this is impossible. For now the ECB is winning, but critics believe the


authorities have lost the plot. They are very clever people, they


are being faced with an almost intractable problem, I don't think


there is an easy solution to this. Every possible solution has massive


drawbacks and costs. A default, controlled or chaotic, imposes


losses on someone, those asking whether we now face a second Lehman


Brothers, may be asking the wrong question. I would question the use


of the word "second", I would argue it is the same. All we managed to


do from Lehman Brothers is move it from one balance sheet, being


unrecognised loss, from one balance sheet to other, we have ended up on


the largest balance sheet available, the tax-payers' balance sheet,


there is nowhere to go. Is the British taxpayer going to get


zapped too? Somebody has to pay in a default. George Osborne and David


Cameron have said they will not bail out Greece again and not take


part in that. Large parts of the macro-economics profession and


journalism have spent the last 72 hours pouring over the root maps


between a busted bond in the Greek Treasury and a lost job on Tyneside.


Or elsewhere in Europe, and these roots exist. It is entirely


possible to see now, not just one root from crisis in Greece to


megacrisis in Europe, and several, and some of them do involve the


European taxpayer as a whole having to put its hand in its pocket.


Almost half of all Greek debt is held by Greek banks and pension


fund, they would go bust if Greece defaults, why should we care?


Because of what would happen next? You get the biggest banks' exposure


to Greece are in Germany, France and the UK. We have already seen


reports that banks are becoming increasingly wary of lend to go one


another, in case the exposure goes wrong, in turn it will hurt


business confidence and consumer confidence, it leads to an


unpleasant downward spiral and back into recession maybe. The contagion


doesn't end there, the European Central Bank, the body that runs


the eurozone, has lent Greece so much money, that its solvency too


could be in doubt. The real problem comes with the derivatives market,


in London and New York, banks have insured themselves against a


default, through called CDS, who pays out? A default is inevitable


in the sense that Greece cannot pay off its debt. Nor can it achieve


the kind of restructuring it has been asked to do in the time frame


it is asked to do to pay off the debt. Couldn't sequences of that


debt will reverberate far beyond Greece and hit London and New York,


not just French and German banks who lent to the Greek, but also the


markets in London and New York, which specialise in derivatives and


CDS contracts that insured against the default. The nightmare scenario


is a second version of Lehman Brothers, Greece draws Portugal and


Ireland into the crisis, raising the cost of borrowing for all Euro-


countries, then banks refuse to lend to each other, this is a


second credit crunch, that stifles the world economy.


The real risk for us in Britain is the Greek crisis, in this the end,


cause as significant banking and economic crisis across the whole of


Europe. And that's going to cause big problems for us, around about


50% of our exports go to the eurozone. If the eurozone is in


trouble, Britain is in trouble. Just before we explore that


question of what happens to the eurozone, they are still voting in


the Greek parliament, but the Government has survived. Let's go


back to what happened to the euro, the euro is bust by this, or the


Greeks can't stay in the euro, what happens then? We have often


wondered what it might look like, a terminal crisis of the eurozone. I


think for several months, again, on programmes like this, in the


broadsheet press, we have been looking at arguments between the


European Central Bank and this politician, or that actor in some


bureaucratic hole in Brussels. But the really stunning thing that has


happened, in the last month, is the entry of the Greek people into the


debate. The whole reason we are here now is because Papandreou's


Government almost collapsed last Wednesday, when mayhem broke out in


central Athens. This wild card of mass action, mass discontent, and a


mass switch-off from the European project that we are seeing also in


southern Europe, also in parts of northern Europe. This empty that


makes the whole outcome, I think, much hard Tory predict than if you


were simply trying to - harder to predict than if you were trying to


predict it through pure economics. The eurozone is a single interest


rate and currency but 16 different tax and spend rules. The aim at


harmonising the policies were systematically rejected.


YuriGagarino50 Euro-can't sur rife, without - euro can't survive,


unless it has measures to make it up to a grown-up kurn circumstance


or pushing out countries that cannot meet the criteria. Some see


a redrawn map of Europe, with the north separate from the south, as


the euro's only chance. I think Germany should leave. Taking with


her other like-minded countries, Austria, Luxembourg and Finland,


and leaving the euro as the currency of the weaker peripheral


countries. But electorates in northern Europe are rejecting this,


right-wing parties that oppose the euro on principle are gaining


ground. The old centralist politicians are looking to lose the


argument. Tax-payers in northern Europe feel they underwrite


Governments in foreign countries, and citizens in poorer regions and


countries feel they are being pushed into these kind of austerity


measures by bureaucrats, officials and politicians they can't vote out


of office, something has to give. But the Greek people have now


forced their way into the argument. They are rejecting austerity in


large numbers. This footage, they height of last week's rioting,


shows a major European city, temporarily absent of the rule of


law. That is what has focused minds, what the Greek people do remains


the wild card that could yet decide the euro's fate. To get an idea of


what might happen if Greece does default, I'm joined by a Greek


economist, Costas Lapavitsas, and the German chief economist of


Berenberg Bank, and the assistant editor of the Financial Times. I


better remind anyone that is watching that the Greek Government


has survived the confidence vote. What is your bet, will they


default? People in America are certainly watching this with great


concern. Both in Washington and New York, in the policy-making circles,


there is real concern. I think the issue is right now Europe is at a


crossroads, French bankers were spoken to in New York, and it was


said now is the time Europe needs it look at corporate governance,


will it pull together and create quasi-federal structures or fall


apart. Right now we don't know. That is why so many people are so


nervous. Do you think the Greek also default? As long as the Greeks


swallow the bitter medicine of austerity, Europe would see the


Greeks paid their bills. There is no sign they have any appetite to


swallow the medicine? They may not have the appetite, we have just had


the first of the three crucial votes in the Greek parliament,


apparently giving a majority for that programme. So far we have to


keep our fingers crossed, but we are still on track. What is your


feeling, as a patriotic Greek? would not comment as a patriotic


Greek, but as an economist I can say that the Greeks have swallowed


plenty of medicine since May 2010, and the result has been utter


failure. They know that this has been the case. So they are most


reluctant to swallow more medicine which they have worked out will


lead nowhere. Let as say for the sake of argument, the Greeks do


then decide that's it, it is game over, they are not going to play


along with this any more, what happens then? I think default will


happen then. What are the consequences of default?


consequences of default would be serious, serious for Greece and for


Europe. But I stress, Greece has no choice, the choice is gone, there


is no choice at all. If it goes for default, if through popular unrest


and the groundswell of anger it goes for default, it will have to


take drastic action to restructure the economy, put different footing


and create jobs and growth and prosperity for its people. What do


you think would be the consequences of a Greek decision to default?


think probably it would cast the eurozone banking system into a lot


more uncertainty, because, of course, you do have a chunk of this


debt held been the eurozone banking system. It would tip the financial


markets into a certain degree of turmoil as well. As you heard from


the earlier segment, there are a number of derivative contracts tied


to Greek bond, whose value would be uncertain if there is a default.


You have a very entwined banking system, it is the unforeseen


consequences, as with the Lehman Brothers episode, really worrying


policy makers right now. Could it lead to something as serious as the


banking crisis which followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers?


good news is this time round, unlike in the Lehman Brothers case,


policy makers, investors and bankers have had several months to


think about the "what if" scenarios. There are plenty of people inside


central banks and banks who have gone through the worse case


scenario, and they are trying to put measures in place to offset any


big risks. However, as we have learned so clearly in the last


couple of years, it is the unforeseen consequences that tend


to trip people up. Right now there are very high unfor seen


consequences. In Greece these big damables are going hand in hand


with the future of the US debt situation as well. It is the


uncertainties that make it so risky. Will northern European tax-payers


bail out southern European economies? Northern European tax-


payers are putting significant amounts of money at risk, so far


with doing that they have managed to contain the risks. We should not


forget that much of continental Europe is having its best economic


time in 20 years. So far the European approach, of offering


tough love to Greece and other southern European, namely, money,


if you change your ways, so far it is working, it is a tough test. If


Greece decides it doesn't want the tough love, because it is too tough,


Europe would switch tack, it would start to contain the constage I


don't know risk, prop up Spain and let Greece do what Greece decides


to do. Is he being a get sanguine there? This is a political problem,


it is not an economic problem. If the eurozone was a single unit, the


eurozone has enough resources to solve it. The question is does the


eurozone want to come together more closely as a single political unit?


If you like, as someone who trained as an an throp polygamist, it is


the revenge of the anthropologists and the sociolologists against the


number crunchers, you can't put the numbers in and predict what is


coming next, it is uncertain but very worrying.


What is your worrying? It is not just the Greeks, it is the Irish


and Portuguese who are bankrupt, the big one is Spain, which is not


far off. And there are plenty of other northern Europeans pretty fed


up with the euro too? The periphery is effectively bankrupt, it is not


a problem of feckless Greeks, or Greeks who have mishandled their


financial affairs. Although that is also true? Possibly, but it is to


do with the eurozone itself and the structures. The fact that the whole


of the periphery is basically bankrupt indicates that. Now, if


Greece were to default, clearly its banks would have a major problem


and would have to be put under public ownership or they would go


bankrupt. It would be a major hit for the ECB, exposed to Greek bonds,


and also to liquidity given to Greek banks. It will be a major


blow for continental banks. It will also be a major blow for the


secondary bond market. Obviously the bonds of other peripheral


countries would collapse in value, because it would become clear that


default is possible. Angela Merkel knows the Germans will not be at


all enthusiastic about the sort of action that is required? They are


not enthusiastic about it. But if you look at Germany, Germany has so


far always risen to the challenge, doesn't forget, as Ian Tett was


pointed out, this is politics. The post-war rationality of German is


to keep Europe together. Germany will not let the euro break apart,


Greece will do what it has to do, but Germany will see it, with


taxpayer money if expected, that the major parts of Europe stays


together. Germany has the means and will to do it.


Thank you both and all very much. We absolutely must not accuse the


Government of another collapse in the face of hostile opinion: the


fact they have abandoned ideas about halving prison sentences for


those pleading guilty, means it reflects the fact they are


thoughtful of public opinion. It raises the tricky question where


they will find the money they thought they were going to save.


We feel constrained to commit to you the maximum term allowed for


these offences, you will go to prison for five years. Mind you, it


would only be two-and-a-half years if Fletcher had pleaded guilty and


Ken Clarke had had his way. Today David Cameron announced new


mandatory jail terms for brandishing a knife, and moves to


help people defend their homes, and against squatting. But that was


overshadowed by the decision to scrap Mr Clarke's controversial


plans to give criminals 50% off their jail terms if they plead


guilty. Saving the trouble of a long trial,


rather than the quurnt third they get in such circumstances. For the


most serious crimes we have concluded this certainly would not


be right. The sentence served would depart far too much from the


sentence handed down by the judge, this is not acceptable. We looked


at whether a 50% discount could be applied to less serious crime, we


reached the same conclusion. Michael Crick, from Newsnight?


Several of the things you have announced tonight, Prime Minister,


will add to the Ministry of Justice's cost, isn't this a huge


kick in the teeth for a minister, who came along, gave you a very


generous settlement, at an early stage in the spending round, now


you have made him find more savings? Ken is happy with the


proposals we are both publishing this morning, and he will explain


to the House this afternoon, as we go forward. It is able to make the


savings without cutting the sentences for the most dangerous


offenders. The plans for 50% jail terms for serious offence, such as


rape and murder, from effectively killed off in Whitehall a couple 6


months ago. But they were still being - a couple of months ago, but


they were still being considered a fortnight ago for lesser crimes.


Ken Clarke had powerful support from the Treasury, who hoped to


save money from the scheme. Then George Osborne, as much the


political strategist as penny penching Chancellor, changed his


mind, and Ken Clarke was told to drop the plans all together. The


Treasury has given Ken Clarke four years to find other savings to meet


the �130 million that the 50% plan was meant to save in last year's


Spending Review. Though, justice officials admit that figure was far


too ambitious any way. Today's climb-down also means the planned


3,000 drop in jail numbers, will be abandoned too. Numbers could rise,


instead. There are two big problems for Ken Clarke, one is the cost of


running crowded prisons, the other is crowded prisons themselves


running out-of-spaces, the specter of prisoners detained in police


cells and so on. One wonders whether it maybe the Government has


to turn to the back door. In other words, given that the Government


has the discretion to allow offenders to go from prison on


early rely might be seen in the coming months or years, a lot going


out the back door, as a way of compensating for the fact that Ken


Clarke has failed to get through his policy to reduce sentences by


50%. As for Cameron's eye-catching moves


today on knives, Tony Martin-style burglary cases and squatters, one


Ministry of Justice source told me they were dreamt up, not by them,


but by Downing Street, to keep the Sun and the Daily Mail happy.


is a bit of headline-grabbing going on, when those clauses go in front


of parliament there will be pretty detailed discussion about them. We


have two processes going on here. We have some people in the


Government want to go look tough, and occasionally producing sensible


measures but often not, we have a whole process of trying to make


sure we spend our money in ways that do stop crime rather than


grabbing headlines. For Labour another Government reverse should


present an open goal. I have got no problem with the Prime Minister, or


members of the cabinet seeing good sense, especially after the


campaign, not just for politicians but members of the public. What I


think is unwise s that the 11th hour, because the media is not


backing down, because you have a particular lobby group you are


worried about, changing policy on the hoof without thinking through


the consequences. Today's sentencing, before that health,


David Cameron has endured a June of taunts of U-turn, to stave off too


big political problems, long-term. As with health, though, the risk is


that criminal justice becomes less coherent and more expensive.


The Internet, we're repeatedly told, has democratised knowledge, if we


want to we can find out almost anything. Supposing that's not


quite true. Supposing we're just been told what someone believes we


want to hear, or worse than that, that some vast corporation's


algorithm has decided to feed us. What if some commercial Ministry of


Truth was ensuring we were only told what we wanted to hear. That


is the scare theory put forward by Eli Pariser, believing we all live


in filter bubbles. We asked our reporter to test the theory.


Looked in the mirror lately, if so you will know what the future of


the internet looks like, aparting to Eli Pariser, he says we're


entering into the era of personalisation, where web


companies know everything about us and serving up a world that looks


like home. The idea is increase league we are in our own little


bubble, experiencing a personalised and limited internet, which filters


out stuff that doesn't match our own likes and prejudices. Let's see


what this means in practice, with a look inside my bubble. You have


looked for Citroen, it is now pinpointing where you are, because


it has picked up where we are searching from. It is finding local


Citroen dealerships for you, that is a simple example of


personalisation using geographical information.


I'm a big user of Gmail, alongside it are adverts for China. My wife


has just been in China, and we have been e-mailing each other using G-


mail, has it picked up something there? Google can pick up a lot of


stuff when you are logged into Google, it can pick up the subject


matter you are e-mailing about, all sorts of things like that, then you


end up with China being advertised to you. I find it a bit creepy?


lot of people do. One example of personalisation,


according to Persson, is that the same Google searches could provide


very different results for very different people, I'm going on a


journey to test the theory. Well, next door at least.


OK Jilly, what we will do is get you to type in the same things that


I have searched for, so we will start with banana bread.


What have you got, you have got as far as I can see, just about


identical results to me. You have the BBC One, two BBC recipe, can


you type into this one, "is wind power economic?". Yet again you


have got identical results to me. Not much evidence of


personalisation there, let's go further afield to another neighbour.


"is wind power economic? ". Yes, yes, yes, looks like you have the


same results again. That didn't work very well with general


searches, did it, you can see personalisation in action when it


comes to on-line advertising. Previous searches and general web


habits get remembered, and trigger ad that is may or may not be


relevant to you on various sites. It is particularly noticable if you


have a web-based e-mail account such as G-mail which spots words in


your messages and throws up advert it is thinks you might want to look


Some people are making serious money from personalisation. I'm


here to see one of them. Sam Barnett's young company uses


technology to show advertisers how to reach you even when you have


left them. A user goes to a retail site and leaves without buying a


product and surfs the interin the. We will refined the user and send


them banner ad that service products they are interested in,


the ad is completely personalised so they are likely to click and buy


that item from an advertiser. One of the key things is it makes


advertising work, so the web continues to be free, so you and I


can continue to use all the things we love about the Internet for free.


Maybe we will find ourselves trapped in our own web bubbles,


easy meat for advertisers. Here's a thought, maybe we will like that!


With us now is Eli Pariser, author of the filter bubble, and Jacob


Wiseberg from Slate magazine, and joins us by satellite. Actually,


lots of people will be grateful to have the rubbish filtered out?


know, the challenge here is this is happening invisibly, we don't see


it at work, we don't know who dooing google thinks we are and on


what basis - Google thinks we are and on what basis it is editing our


results, and why fates book is showing us some stories - Facebook


is showing us some stories and not others. As it shifts from human


people to algorithms, you are more likely to see more things and you


may not know why you are clicking. What do you make of the news?


hate to reduce it to an empirical reference, I read the book and was


sceptical that this degree of filtering was happening on Google.


Like your reporter I tested it out, I found some people I gathered for


a test on Twitter, different politicians from different parts of


the country were receiving virtually the same results. More to


the point, there is really no evidence to say that we are


becoming a narrower parochial, more bubbly people, as a result of the


the stuff going on at the internet. We are being exposed to a wider


range of viewpoints, sources of information. I think that we have


enough real things to worry about in terms of the supression of


internet freedom, the risks to democracy that come with technology,


not to focus too much on something that could happen but isn't


happening. Let us continue with this fictional worry for a moment


or two? Can we talk about evidence for a second or two. We could trade


anecdotes and you could find evidence of searches that are


different. There has been some empirical evidence on this with


Google personalisation. The journal First Monday published a paper that


says 64% of the search results differed between people because of


the personalisation at work. are taking people for idiots aren't


you? David Cameron had a news conference today. If I want to find


out what happened at that news conference, I could go to the Ten


Downing Street website and get a transcript of it. I could go to


something that consorted with my political prejudices and a


newspaper site that was left or right-wing. I know what I'm doing,


you are assuming people don't know what they are doing? It is the


contrary, Google and Facebook are the ones that are assuming that


people only want to hear from people like them. They are feeding


them stuff 0 it may produce more page views or ad reviews.


sampling we did was there both here and in New York? Google, I have


talked to them, they don't prevend there are differences in search


results, they are clear that in some cases it could have a


political bias to that. I don't think they acknowledge. That


Come on Mr Wiseberg? I don't think they do acknowledge that. More


ton't point if you take a little bit of historical perspective on


this, for nearly all of human history, all people lived in


bubbles and had no choice. Either they had no outside information or


limited access to a very limited range of sources of information,


and now for the first time we all have access to an unlimited range


of human information. It is possible, that people won't take


advantage of that and they will burrow deeper into their rabbit


Warrens, and associate with people who agree, and find out about


specific things they are interested in. I don't think it is happening


and I think the opposite is happening. I think in social


networks like Facebook, where people receive information


mediateed through people they have identified as kindred spirits, it


is certainly happening there, isn't it? If you don't read a newspaper


and watch Newsnight and you didn't get any news, now you are getting


news exclusively through Facebook. You have replaced no with limited


information. Facebook is not a news organisation. How much of Slate's


traffic comes from Google? Not very much. I wish we got more traffic.


Most news websites it is 50% or more Google and Facebook combined,


that is the New York Times and a bunch of other news websites. The


point is, some stories, I have seen it on Slate, will do very well,


others won't. In part, based on whether you can click "like" easily


on the headline or not. That means the story earlier on the programme


about Syria and the prokblems there, doesn't make it as far on Facebook


as a more trivial story that is entertaining and makes you like it.


It has serious consequences for journalism, and some stories make


it to the public and others don't. That is not necessarily true.


I'm so sorry, we have run out of time. Thank you very much both of


you. That is all from Newsnight tonight, more tomorrow, until then


Warming up through the weekend, that is a long way off. For the


time being it remains cool and showery across the UK. A wide


distribution of showers, as you can see, with very few places staying


dry during the course of Wednesday. Some hours heavy and thundery. A


cool one, temperatures mid-to high teens. Wimbledon could be affected


by lively downpour, I'm expecting some disruptions. A broz that will


move the showers through. Dryer and bright spells mixed in. That is the


story across Wales. Temperatures not as high as they should be at


this time of year. Mid-teens will be typical. Further north the winds


will be lighter, which means the showers could last longer. A


showery scene across Northern Ireland. Not the persistent heavy


rain which some parts of eastern Scotland had on Tuesday. More


showers to come across northern areas on Thursday, they could be


heavy, and temperatures disappointingly low. A similar


story further south. Dryer and brighter spells, but showers never


too far away. The main emphasis on showers on Thursday will be across


the more central and eastern parts of the UK. Gradually drying out


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