Monday, 4 May 2015

UKIPs website, and the disappearing story of it being targeted by the European Commission in 2002

Readers with a long association with UKIP and an even longer memory may recall a story which appeared in May 2002 regarding UKIPs website.

UKIP had been attracting bad publicity on the basis of postings made on the party website, which in those days also had a discussion board attached to it for members to exchange ideas. The board was moderated, but allowed real-time posting, with the admins later deleting unacceptable postings.

A number of stories had appeared in the national press regarding some of the posts. Even where they had been deleted rapidly by the admins, screengrabs from UKIPs website kept turning up on newsdesks showing comments which were blatantly, even outrageously, racist.

Eventually, UKIP had had enough, but before the discussion boards were removed, the admins and other staff went through the IP addresses of the posters, and then traced the IP addresses.

The European Commission - the source of racist postings on
UKIPs website back in 2002
It will be no surprise to learn that almost all of the postings came from IP addresses within the European Commission - and other EU institutions - in Brussels.

The reason we mention this is twofold.

Firstly, we have over the past few days spent more time than usual removing racist postings from the Nope not Hope Facebook page and various comment threads here on the blog. On Facebook, almost all of the accounts used were created within the past 2 or 3 weeks, and their entire content has been designed to link UKIP with the far-right and/or with outrageously racist comments, memes, images or statements.

Secondly, we thought we would highlight to readers the depths to which our enemies will stoop in order to maintain the fiction that UKIP is racist - after all, they have precious few other arguments.

We spent several hours attempting to locate a single story relating to UKIPs website online. This is despite it appearing on the BBC and Sky, and in the Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian and several other print outlets. We spoke to current and former press office staff, and they also searched without success.

In the end, the only reference we could find to this story anywhere was in a question put before the Commission by Thierry de la Perriere, an MEP from the non-aligned group in the European Parliament on the 2nd May 2002. In it, he asked:

"The British Daily Telegraph has published a report directly calling into question the behaviour of the European Commission or some of its staff.
The newspaper investigated a number of e-mails sent to the discussion forum on the anti-EU UK Independence Party's web site and containing violent attacks on that party's ideas. The source of these messages has been identified. It is the European Commission's offices in the Jean Monnet Building, in Luxembourg.
Can the Commission confirm or deny this report?
Should these allegations be confirmed, does it intend to take disciplinary action against those of its staff involved in this misuse of the European administration's time and equipment?"

The question asked in the European Parliament - the only
online reference we could find.
The question was answered over 6 weeks later by Neil Kinnock, then Vice-President of the Commission, who insisted that:

"Examination of the discussion forum has revealed no trace of a "bevy of colourful postings abusing the UKIP" by "pen pushers", as the Daily Telegraph describes it. Instead of that, an open and informed debate seems to be going on between pro and anti Union views. Neither the webmaster of the site, who moderates the discussion(2), nor other contributors to the forum appear to have been offended by the postings referred to by the newspaper."

Neil Kinnock, whose investigation into the source of the
storiesdid not involve looking at any of the evidence
Before stating that the Commission intended to take no action.

At no time during Mr Kinnock's 'investigation' did he actually contact UKIP, who of course had long since deleted the offending content, but had helpfully kept electronic records in case the Commission wished to do anything.

The internet has changed considerably since it was a minority interest back in 2002, and few could have guessed the direction in which it would head. It was also over a dozen years ago, and papers and broadcasters have updated software and websites since. We do find it interesting though that while we can find accusations of UKIP racism dating back to last century online, of this story we can find almost no trace beyond a single written question, and even that took a little finding.

Weasel - Nick Lowles, HnH owner, offered
to supply the European Movement with
'information' in 1996
So, when you read about the dreadful, racist, fascist things which UKIP 'supporters' are supposed to have said, remember this tale. UKIP have been the victim of a sustained attack along similar lines before, and subsequently it was proved that in fact, the perpetrators had been the European Commission.

Finally, remember also that back in 1996, one Nick Lowles had approached the European Movement offering to 'provide information which may be invaluable to your cause': the letter offering such support was subsequently leaked and appeared on the 'Notes from the Borderland' website in 2001. As Hope not Hate are so active in 'exposing' UKIP supporters and candidates who they allege have said racist things on social media, we wonder whether the two stories are, after all, linked?

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