Today’s third session of the APPG saw important issues raised around long-term sustainability of electoral law along with the underlying question of truth. There were also important questions raised regarding spending limits and transparency. Highlights are below and you can listen to the entire session on the audio file below.
Bethany Shiner noted a number of the suggestions made by DCMS and other entities are only temporary and there are key long-term issues that need to be dealt with. It’s about faith in the system and trust in the electoral outcomes. The big question is values and how be build in integrity, transparency and trust. By building around values, we have the necessary flexibility to modify the rules based on changing environments. WhatsApp is the key example because we lose all transparency since it’s a totally private, encrypted network. With regard to digital imprints, Bethany pointed out that you must be clear on what types of content would need to have a digital imprint – organic? Paid? Party-funded? Grassroots led? She raised the question as to whether all micro-targeting ads should be banned.
Will Moy of Full Fact referenced their important report published last year – Tackling Disinformation in an Open Society – which highlights not just disinformation but what impacts people’s voting decisions. Will pointed out that it’s not just what happens in election time but all the time as the biggest predictor of a person’s voting intention is how they intend to vote the day the election is called. Full Fact’s report highlighted the need to immediately extend the imprint rule online in a genuinely meaningful way across four areas: complete transparency of content, targeting, spend and reach. He noted as well that the information environment has become an absolute fog because of the number of sources now available and the ability to hyper-target. In this fog we need better beacons of quality, reliable information. Will also pointed out that the current way of thinking about transparency – through spend – isn’t right anymore. The simple concept of splitting between local spend and national spend just doesn’t cut it anymore. Deterrence should be based on larger personal liability for law-breaking. On monitoring, it’s about giving the Electoral Commission more money to do the constant research and learning to stay on top of these issues.