Elections: Disinformation

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 25th February 2020.

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Photo of Lord Cromwell Lord Cromwell Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government, given the “real danger that hostile actors use online disinformation to undermine” the UK’s “democratic values and principles” outlined in their Online Harms White Paper, published in April 2019, what steps they plan to take to empower the proposed independent regulator to require online platforms to take down such material that may be perceived to have an impact on an electoral contest; and what guidance they plan to give to that regulator about how any such decision should be reached.

Photo of Baroness Barran Baroness Barran The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

On 12 February the Government published its Initial Consultation Response to the Online Harms White Paper. This sets out our direction of travel on a number of key areas, including that we are minded to appoint Ofcom as the regulator for online harms, and more detail on the proposed approach of the regulator. The response also confirmed that a media literacy strategy will be published in Summer 2020 and aim to support citizens in thinking critically about the things they come across online. More detailed proposals on online harms regulation will be released in the spring.

The Government has also established the Defending Democracy programme to bring together expertise and ongoing work on protecting democratic processes from different departments. This programme, led by the Cabinet Office, has been set up to:

  • protect and secure UK democratic processes, systems and institutions from interference, including from cyber, personnel and physical threats;

  • strengthen the integrity of UK elections;

  • encourage respect for open, fair and safe democratic participation; and

  • promote fact-based and open discourse, including online.

As part of this work, we engage regularly with social media companies to understand the actions they are taking to prevent misuse of their platforms.

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