I'm Shadow Digital Minister on Jeremy Corbyn's front bench and proudly serve the people of Birmingham, Hodge Hill. I've also been Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Immigration Minister.

In order for Parliament to get the best ideas, we're throwing open the doors to the public with The People’s Plan for Digital. Here you can watch interviews with tech experts, submit your own policy ideas and help improve the ideas of everyone else.

Ask me anything! If you have a good idea for digital policy, put that in the question too or submit it on our site!

PROOF: https://imgur.com/a/5rZtk

Answering from 3:30pm UK time!


Comments: 356 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

WelshgenX64 karma

What is your view on encrypted communication technologies like whatsapp. Would you try and gain back doors into these technologies via the vendor?

LiamByrneMP132 karma

Back doors are bad news - not least because they leave people open to hacks

pond_party48 karma

Will Labour try to maintain free roaming across the EU and UK (both for EU ppl coming to Britain and british ppl going to Europe) even after Brexit?

LiamByrneMP44 karma


Psychobudgie30 karma

How can we take any commitment to digital policy seriously when the digital offering from the Political Party to it's members is so shockingly awful? There have been issues with Contact Creator and membersnet that go back years and they are either overlooked or just ignored. Data quality alone is woeful and speaking as an industry professional the lack of ambition to improve it doesn't exactly inspire confidence, so how do you propose to overcome this?

LiamByrneMP17 karma

That's good feedback. I think there's a strong commitment to get it right though. In particular, the way we're integrating offline events like rallies and Facebook is carrying our message out to massive new audiences

andrewfenn22 karma

Have you considered some of the view points from established groups that have already been fighting for better digital rights such as https://www.openrightsgroup.org ?

LiamByrneMP18 karma

Yes! They're been really helpful - and offered a load of good ideas at our round tables here in parliament

Tsabowar22 karma

Similar to the Video Games question, but how aware is parliament of the E-Sports Industry and how much it is growing? Is this something that you've been keeping an eye on or have plans to help/support orginisations that are looking to invest in the industry?

LiamByrneMP31 karma

Again, candidly, I think awareness is low. I spent most of my career before parliament in the tech industry so I often find parliament a frustrating place to debate this. Its hard enough to get things like a mobile signal in the office! But: the answer is a proper industrial strategy with investment for the creative industries with the right kind of leadership that allows Govt to click in support where needed

ymdtaway19 karma

If you were the digital minister, what would be your 1st short term priority and what would be your long term strategic plan?

LiamByrneMP22 karma

Actually, that's what we're trying to pin down with our Peoples' Plan (www.peoplesplan.co.uk). I don't think it makes sense for me to cook up a plan in a room in Westminster. We want to draw together the best ideas in the world. I've just spent a couple of days for instance in Estonia, which has used eGovernment and a public e-ID scheme to transform the digital economy. We could learn an awful lot from this.

ruizscar23 karma

Could you add 'privacy' to the themes available for each idea?

Also why not education? Digital is going to replace the lecture hall for the most part, is it not?

LiamByrneMP3 karma

So privacy issues, we're trying to cover off in 'trust'; and 'education' in the debate on 'skills'

pond_party15 karma

What's your opinion of the General Data Protection Regulation that comes into effect in May?

LiamByrneMP10 karma

It's a decent start - but it needs a digital bill of rights to give it real force. And we need to introduce a way of allowing organisations to provide 'collective redress' when rights are violated. The humble individual will have a tough time taking Google or Facebook to court. But Which? would stand a better chance...

MorDon113 karma

What are your thoughts on cyber-security and radicalisation? The governments policy on encryption seems a bit nonsensical.

LiamByrneMP10 karma

Well, I've actually written a book on this! Research here: https://liambyrne.co.uk/research_categories/fighting_extremism/. One of the things that really worries me at the moment is actually state-backed digital operations which seek to foment an polarised online battle. We have to understand this better. The LSE has set up a centre to study this, which I helped launch last night: http://www.lse.ac.uk/iga/arena

liamquane13 karma

What is your opinion on the "Privacy Paradox" that digital networking comes packaged with? In order for people to have their private information "used", "sold" or "stolen", they first have to give it freeely.

LiamByrneMP8 karma

I think our privacy laws are hopelessly outdated. We're about to date the Data Protection Bill in parliament - but I think we could do with a Digital Bill of Rights. The argument for is here: https://labourlist.org/2018/02/liam-byrne-its-time-to-give-britain-a-digital-bill-of-rights/

madeinacton12 karma

If digital processes replace jobs from the public sector making it smaller in head count, is this something you are happy to push forward with?

LiamByrneMP5 karma

We now have the smallest civil service since I think, world war two. It needs to be bigger! But I want to explore how 21st century public servants can use digital tools to transform the way we tackle the great giants of social injustice today.

k5437 karma

the great giants of social injustice today.

Such as?

LiamByrneMP13 karma

Want Exploitation
Disability The skills shortage Poor places

For starters

Adamquane11 karma

Our media clearly leans to The Right and our press is about as free as a product from Amazon, how do Labour plan on overcoming this obstacle?

LiamByrneMP13 karma

Its interesting this. I've been an MP for 14 years now and I've definitely noticed a massive decline in the influence of the tabloid press. And when I talk to young people, the thing that really impresses me is the way young people now draw so much news from so many different sources. The thing that worries me more is what I've called the 'dark social playbook'; bad forces using big money and hate speech and manipulating social media to send out toxic messages. We have to update our laws to respond. My comment piece about it is here: https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/technology/cybersecurity/opinion/house-commons/91693/liam-byrne-mp-our-laws-are-completely

frankster7 karma

The Digital Economy Act 2010 was an utter mess, and it was implemented as a stitch-up at the end of a parliamentary session. In the end parts of the act were repealed, and parts of the act were never implemented as they were unworkable. This could have been avoided had proper parliamentary scrutiny been allowed.

How would Labour seek to avoid repeating historic mistakes when legislating in digital areas that not all of the party fully understand?

LiamByrneMP11 karma

Well, what I'd say is that by opening up this debate now is a good way of stopping mistakes in the future. To err is human. But its how we spot and fix our mistakes that's therefore vital. That's easier in a more open political system

SerDancelot7 karma

How do we fight against the echo chamber complex, where the information sources people use reinforce their political and world views, in turn exacerbating any problems with the veracity of that content, and polarising people?

How do we ensure that electors are armed with the appropriate tools to question their news sources and prevent them from making decisions based on falsehoods or spin?

It is often said that where America leads, the world follows, so how do we ensure that without EU safeguards, we do not follow the US in eroding net neutrality?

Thanks for doing this!

LiamByrneMP12 karma

A huge issue. One of the ideas proposed for a digital bill of rights, is the right to know - know where information has come from. So for instance, campaigns law here doesn't require an 'imprint' on political advertising. We want to change this. But more generally, we've got to be far more alert to the way some countries are investing millions in robotrolls to pump out divisive messages. And we've got to step up public service broadcasting....

On net neutrality I glad to say I think there's a consensus here at least that it MUST stay!

frankster6 karma

Open Source Software/Free Software is fundamentally compatible with socialism and the co-operative movement. Do you see Labour taking steps to support these movements?

LiamByrneMP4 karma

It's a great thought. Are there particular ways you see we could make a difference?

OrangeLimeZest6 karma

Opinion on the current education system?

LiamByrneMP15 karma

I worry a lot about this. The Computer Science GCSE is better but some way off where it needs to be. And starving creativity out of the curriculum is a mistake. We're brilliant as a country at marrying brilliant design genius with great engineering. You can't have just one or another. You need both

Adamquane6 karma

Hi, Liam.

Loot boxes have become a prevalent force in gaming and the only viable explanation for them (outside of greed) is that games have remained the same price regardless of inflation.

With this and the act of loot boxes being certified as "not a form of gambling", how would you - a rep from the party-of-the-people tackle this issue?

LiamByrneMP12 karma

Actually my colleague Rosena Allin-Khan had a great point on this in Commons not long ago. You can see it here: https://twitter.com/DrRosena/status/943786624021868544

LiamByrneMP4 karma

Here's my colleague Rosena's point on this in the Commons, the other day: https://twitter.com/DrRosena/status/943786624021868544

sapperfarms5 karma

Why is it called the shadow digital minister?

LiamByrneMP13 karma

Hello! Basically, it means I'm the Opposition Digital Minister - I speak for the Labour Party with a job to hold the Government's digital minister to account for what they're doing or not doing - and propose better ideas; ideas we're gathering in at www.peoplesplan.co.uk

danielrwood114 karma

How are you going to protect and maintain net neutrality in the UK?

LiamByrneMP8 karma

We start by standing up and making the case for in parliament. So far, I think the political consensus for its defence is strong here

liamquane3 karma

Clearly, modernity is Conservative Kryptonite, they obviously don't know how to communicate with young voters (we like pop-culture references) who will be the "older voters with children" very soon. Do you think the Labour party bringing on board more and more youthful representatives (I'm not sure how to phrase this question) could be a factor in winning the next election? All Theresa May has is the vague "Harry Potter" reference, young people really respond to people talking about what they like and not just things they think they like, the number one video-game at the moment is called PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and an MP of all people referencing such a thing in Parliament ("you'd have thought PlayerUnknown had designed this debate") at THIS particular time could go viral, it would have no response in parliament and that would be seen as a weakness on the part of the non-responders. Charlie Brooker did the same thing making desert Island discs play a video-game theme tune and it was a huge story for a day or two.

LiamByrneMP8 karma

Completely! It's actually one of the reasons we support votes at 16. If more people were entitled to vote, more politicians would listen to young people. I actually run a lot of workshops in my local schools for this reason. In last Friday's little vote, the priorities were: 1. Abolishing university fees, 2. More money for the NHS and 3. Getting the streets clean

NordicSocialDemocrat3 karma

What do you think of platform cooperatives and what role do you see cooperatives play in the future of digital economy?

LiamByrneMP7 karma

I think cooperatives are going to have a really big role. What does the online world do? Its a place where we can come together to collaborate with people from round the corner and round the world. So I'd like to see cooperatives take a bigger role in all sorts of ways

liamquane3 karma

How much are Video Games discussed in and around parliament? Is this a silly question because I think it might be? :~P

LiamByrneMP14 karma

It's a good question. There's not a huge amount. Actually my boss Tom Watson was one of the pioneers of this debate. He was one of the first to push for tax cuts to encourage a stronger UK games industry. Today, we're pushing for a proper sector industrial plan for the creative industries with sensible investment that would help the sector grow.

Adamquane3 karma

A politician swearing in public: is this a beneficial concept that gets ignored? Should politicians swear more as to look more passionate and "normal?"

LiamByrneMP5 karma

Tricky. I think a lot of us already worry about the coarsening of public life as it is, without adding more to it...

liamquane2 karma

Jacob Rees-Mogg IS a robot named "Moggatron", isn't he? I am right about this aren't I? (whispers* Seriously, give him that nickname in public and you'll have branded him for life a "robot villain, please do it. It's actually a viable strategy and has a good chance of helping reduce his (sigh) "youth pull" It might seem "dirty" but 120,000 deaths because of forced Austerity measures is a lot worse than "dirty.")

LiamByrneMP3 karma

Brilliant. I'll throw that into the mix

_Breacher_2 karma

Hi Liam, very happy to see you doing an AMA on reddit!

What led you to decide to do this?

LiamByrneMP11 karma

My job is to come up a plan to help Britain become the world's most advanced digital society. I can't do that on my own! So we want to use a load of different digital tools to try and gather together the best ideas in the world. Hope you can chip in

abraxian2 karma

Heya Liam!

In your role, you may well share some sympathies with Matt Hancock, the member who obviously tried to bring the constituency process into people's phones with his app.

What are your thoughts on a generalised Matt Hancock? Momentum have used apps before to engage their membership in campaigning, but Labour don't have one to mobilise members.

Additionally, can you envision a sort of MyMP app in the future? To streamline the caseworking process, allow for discussion, and let ordinary people break into the Westminster bubble.

Let me know what you think!

LiamByrneMP2 karma

Very interesting...I think its fair to say Mr Hancock may have a few data protection issues with the app...But in general, yes, we've got to take the walls down around parliament. There's an idea that we need to spend £5.6 billion rebuilding Parliament (which is to be fair falling down) - lots of young people I know say that money could be better spent on pioneering eVoting (in Estonia, I was told this week, a third of votes are cast online)

segamad661 karma

how would you go about tackling dangerous and harmful videos on youtube, as there is current around 400 hours of content uploading every minute and 1.5 billion people with accounts. it would be impossible to police as it is such a wide problem as videos can be title under something else but still show isis content. so how will you deal with it, without threating companies with fines and banning their websites? is it even possible to control?

LiamByrneMP1 karma

We're looking hard at the new laws Germany has introduced proposing big, big fines for firms that simply aren't fast enough to take down hate speech. Welcome views on this