Election Universe

Does disinformation hurt elections? 10 proposals from the UK

Does disinformation hurt elections? 10 proposals from the UK
December 08 2018, 15:54

Fake news can be detrimental to election processes in any democracy. Political leaders have even gone as far as considering digital misinformation a pandemic. The spread of false or manipulated election information got a ton of consideration in the outcome of the 2016 US presidential race. Today, it continues strengthening its influence on election cycles and campaigns.

From public policymakers to technology and social media providers, the concern over fake news has quickly escalated demanding action. It is not an individual responsibility anymore, but a social problem. Furthermore, how disinformation negatively impacts elections -and how to prevent and control it- is a present-day discussion, from the UK to Brazil to Nigeria to the U.S.

A recent report by the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee of the United Kingdom House of Commons summarizes essential recommendations. According to the authors the document answers to an “inquiry on disinformation covering individuals’ rights over their privacy, how their political choices might be affected and influenced by online information, and interference in political elections both in this country and across the world—carried out by malign forces intent on causing disruption and confusion.”

Here are some of the report’s most significant and practical conclusions:

  1. Clear legal liabilities should be established for tech companies to act against harmful or illegal content on their sites. Such companies should have relevant systems in place to highlight and remove ‘types of harm’ and to ensure that cybersecurity structures are in place.
  2. The government should study how the protections of privacy law can be expanded to include inferences about individuals, in particular during political campaigning.
  3. There needs to be absolute transparency of online political campaigning, including clear, persistent banners on all paid-for political adverts and videos, indicating the source and the advertiser; and a category introduced for digital spending on campaigns.
  4. The government must look at the ways in which the UK law should define digital campaigning, including having agreed definitions of what constitutes online political advertising.
  5. There needs to be an acknowledgment of the role and power of unpaid campaigns and Facebook Groups that influence elections and referendums.
  6. Digital literacy should be the fourth pillar of education, alongside reading, writing, and maths.
  7. A comprehensive educational framework—developed by charities, NGOs, and the regulators—could inform people of the implications of sharing their data willingly, their rights over their data, and ways in which they can constructively engage with social media.
  8. The public need to know more about their ability to report digital campaigning that they think is misleading and or unlawful.
  9. The Government should take a leading role in coordinating this crucial service for the public.
  10. Social media users need online tools to help them distinguish between quality journalism, and stories coming from organizations that have been linked to disinformation or are regarded as being unreliable sources.