Posts by Fair Vote Project

#EyesOnElection

14/11/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “#EyesOnElection”

Earlier this week, we at Fair Vote UK launched  ‘Eyes on Election’, an Election Vulnerabilities Monitoring Project. This project, that will run the course of the General Election to 12th December, will keep the public informed about what misbehaviour there might be. It will play a vital public role in calling out threats to the election as they emerge – from blatant lies to more insidious disinformation, dodgy money and foreign interference. Disinformation and meddling can come from any side of the political aisle and so this will be non-partisan. It will call out attempts by parties and activists from all political groups of all persuasions.

There is already evidence of disinformation and there will be much more up until polling day because politicians have done nothing to protect elections in the digital age. This issue is urgent. By the end of the year, two elections will have been fought since our electoral system was demonstrated to be vulnerable in the 2016 EU Referendum. Lack of lasting structural change to the electoral system and the legislation that governs it will mean our elections remain vulnerable. Projects like Eyes on Election should not need to exist. There should be laws in place that protect our elections from threats on social media. Fair Vote UK will continue to fight for election safeguarding and expose the evidence for its urgency. It will build the evidence base necessary to force legislators to act on day 1 of the new Parliament – whoever is in power.

If you see something nefarious or suspect say something by sharing it on Twitter with #EyesOnElection.

We’ll also be posting some advice on how to identify such malfeasance on the web. Here’s a few pointers on how to recognise social media “bots”:

How to Identify a Bot

  • They post a lot. the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda team views an average of more than 50 posts a day as suspicious.
  • Their profile is “sparse”. There’s often no header photo and the profile pic looks generic. The less personal information on the profile, the more likely it is to be a bot.
  • Their ratio of followers to following is off balance. If they’re following 500+ people but only have 3 followers, be suspicious.

Russia Report Refused

05/11/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Russia Report Refused”

Yesterday we learned that the government has refused the publication of a report that examines Russian meddling in UK politics, including attempts to interfere in the 2016 EU referendum. The government gave a process excuse – that it needed more time to assess publication – as its flimsy reason for refusal. The result is that we will now have a General Election without a full understanding of the extent to which WE ALREADY KNOW a hostile foreign actor possibly infiltrated important recent democratic events. The investigation is done. The report is written. We are now knowingly calling an Election when new information exists on possible threats to its legitimacy. As a result, the Security Committee, which commissioned the report, will now be unable to use it as evidence for recommendations for greater safeguards for the upcoming Election.

 

Without real legislative change, we will be further exposing ourselves to risk from foreign interference in our elections. The elections laws in the UK have not been updated since 2001. Since that time, an enormous amount has changed, from the rise of social media and online campaigning to the deterioration of relations between the West and Russia. We already have substantial proof from the DCMS’s report on fake news to the APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency’s evidence in 2019 that our current laws are not fit for purpose. This report would likely reinforce this evidence and demonstrate the need for change. But the government has decided to silence the truth. We should not accept such negligence. 

 

Safeguarding elections will remain urgent until politicians pass the right kind of reform. In January next year, the report on Electoral Campaigning Transparency will be published. Fair Vote UK will be working hard to ensure that the new government will enact its recommendations in full. Keep watching our Facebook, Twitter and this Blog for more information on how you can help to pressure decision makers to keep this high on their agenda. Together, we can make the difference that will help to re-establish trust in elections and our democracy. 

Public Inquiry Case Update

23/10/2019 Posted by News, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Public Inquiry Case Update”

We have a further update on our legal battle to secure a public inquiry into wrongdoing during the EU referendum campaign.

 

Last October, Fair Vote UK issued a judicial review to challenge the Government’s unwillingness to establish a public inquiry into the conduct of the 2016 EU Referendum. We wanted to ensure that vital lessons could be learned from a public inquiry and applied in future referendums and elections, including through urgent changes in the law.

 

Much has changed since then and we have, with the advice of our lawyers, made the difficult decision to withdraw our case for a judicial review. 

 

Our case for a Public Inquiry has been made more difficult by the many different Parliamentary inquiries, reviews and government consultations that have started since we first started out legal battle. These investigations and initiatives, such as the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s Electoral Law inquiry; the government’s announcement of a range of new measures to safeguard UK elections; and the government’s Online Harms White Paper could possibly generate evidence and proposals that would address some of the issues that an EU referendum public inquiry would cover. We believe that the risk is high that the Courts will side with the government’s decision to reject the request for a public inquiry whilst these processes run their course. The decision to retreat has been hard but we are sure it was the right one given how likely it was that the court would refuse permission for our judicial review.

 

We are not giving up in any way our fight to uncover the whole truth about what happened during the 2016 EU referendum. We still believe that only a comprehensive public inquiry will get to the bottom of the wrongdoings during the EU referendum campaign. It is still crucial that the truth is exposed and decision makers are compelled to make the structural changes necessary to safeguard our democracy. 

Electoral Integrity Bill Misses The Point

16/10/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Electoral Integrity Bill Misses The Point”

Earlier this week we were treated to perhaps one of the oddest Queen’s Speech on record. Aside from the obvious fact that without a majority, this current government will find it difficult to pursue its policy priorities, it also previewed something referred to as the ‘Electoral Integrity Bill’. Following two trials from elections this and last year, the government intends to require people to show an approved form of photo ID in order to vote – in general elections in Britain and local elections in England.

 

It’s not quite clear why this law is needed. According to the Electoral Reform Society, “out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – that’s 0.000063%”. The independent Electoral Commission even states that “there is no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud relating to the 2018 local elections.” It seems to be fixing a problem that doesn’t exist. This law is just political window dressing. It’s a way for the government to say that it takes the issue of safeguarding future elections seriously without having to tackle the real issues.  

 

We know what the real problems with the current system are. We know that the current regulation of funding and spending on campaigns as well as online political campaign adverts is broken. We know that our electoral law isn’t adequate for the realities of political campaigning in the age of social media. We know that our current systems of transparency, monitoring and deterrence are just not working. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Campaigning Transparency will soon publish its report and recommendations on this issue. It will be clear on exactly what needs to happen now and what will need to happen in the future so that our elections can continue to be fair and free. Here’s a sneak preview: Voter IDs isn’t included.

 

It’s great to see electoral law in the Queen’s Speech. But until it’s the right kind of reform, nothing will change.

Public Inquiry Update

07/10/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Public Inquiry Update”

Last week in Manchester, the Prime Minister warned there would be “grave consequences for trust in democracy” if Brexit were not delivered. We are already past this point. To restore trust in institutions and our democracy, we need to fully understand what happened during the EU Referendum campaign. This is why Fair Vote UK is continuing to fight for a Public Inquiry into wrongdoing in the EU Referendum. 

 

Here’s a quick reminder of what a Public Inquiry could get to the bottom of:

 

1. Russian interference in the EU Referendum

This is a real and pressing concern which is simply not being investigated. 

2. The involvement of foreign-based companies in the EU Referendum campaign

There is much evidence that shady, foreign companies supplied services to the designated Leave campaign and other campaigners during the EU Referendum campaign. 

3. Issues of truthfulness during the EU Referendum campaign

In June 2016 and June 2018 the Electoral Commission recognised that the truthfulness of certain arguments used in 2016 was a concern. 1000 days have passed since the Referendum and still there has been no investigation into what lies and misinformation were spread, by whom, with what financial backing and to what effect.

4. The lack of effective sanctions and accountability for overspending in the EU Referendum campaign

In June 2018, The Electoral Commission referred to the current £20k sanction as being “a cost of doing business” for some campaigners. It is clearly not fit for purpose and needs an urgent review. 

5. The scale of campaign donations in the EU Referendum

Donations of the scale of Arron Banks’s alleged £8.4 million to the Leave campaign or the £435,000 made to the DUP by the Constitutional Research Council are contrary to British values and our democracy.

6. The source of funds used by certain campaigners in the EU Referendum

Two recent DCMS reports noted that it was still unclear where some of the money for donations to the Leave Campaign have come from.

7. The anomalous rules relating to Northern Ireland have created gaps that may have been exploited during the EU Referendum campaign

Open Democracy has revealed that the DUP took out a full page advert in the Metro – which does not circulate in Northern Ireland – advocating leave and that the advert was paid for by Richard Cook of the Scottish-based Constitutional Research Council. This suggests coordination between the two entities.

8. Psychographic targeting in political campaigns and the lack of oversight of these new methods of political campaigning

Sophisticated new methods were used to target voters in the EU Referendum campaign, many of which have since been shown to be unethical and contrary to data protection legislation. The Information Commissioner has looked into the extent that profiling and targeting was in breach of data protection rights and taken action. However, there is still much we don’t know.

 

The Permission Hearing for the Public Inquiry will be later this month, on the 24th October. At the hearing, our lawyers will explain why the written refusal of permission back in January was wrong, and will make the case for permission to be granted so we can argue our case at a full hearing.

 

This has taken on a new urgency. With a probable upcoming election and possible new referendum, it’s important that all the lessons from the 2016 are learned. This way we can ensure that future elections are fought fairly.

Mississippi Case Update: Carson Law Group Instructed

01/10/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Mississippi Case Update: Carson Law Group Instructed”

With the seemingly constant stream of political crises, it can be difficult to get a handle on what’s going on in our democracy. Despite the tumult, we at Fair Vote UK remain focused on the impact of big data on elections. Misuse of new technologies will continue to harm the legitimacy of elections and trust in the democratic process if we don’t act now. This has taken us to Mississippi to pursue a case to prevent UK citizens’ data from being offshored (for more on this see here https://fairvote.uk/press-release-fair-vote-uk-launches-crowdfunder-to-fight-cambridge-analytica-related-data-case-against-arron-banks/).

 

Last month we hit our initial target of £10k and now are able to instruct the Carson Law Group in Mississippi to pursue further legal action against Arron Banks and his companies. This week, Fair Vote UK will restart its work with Carson Law Group to get a preservation order to secure voter data that is allegedly held in Mississippi by Eldon Insurance and/or Big Data Dolphins. The Carson Law Group has a rich history in working with clients in all areas of intellectual property law, including privacy.

 

This case could have important consequences for democracy. If this preservation order is obtained, it could set a precedent and open the door to other cases where individuals can seek to discover and repatriate illegally held data. Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of any democracy. In this febrile political environment it is particularly important that the public can trust that no campaign is cheating.

We are just at the beginning of this journey and will continue to need your support. We now have a stretch target of £25k, which will cover the legal fees as the case unfolds. Please share, where you can, this crowdjustice link https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/data-arronbanks/ so that we can get the word out and establish more support.

Health Check: Checks & Balances are Fighting Fit

26/09/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Health Check: Checks & Balances are Fighting Fit”

Democracies on both sides of the pond have been stretched to new limits in the years since 2016. This latest week has been a particularly acute stress test. But it turns out that the system of checks and balances is in rude health. On Tuesday 24th September, the UK Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that the Prime Minister’s suspension of Parliament was indeed illegal. Later that day in the US, Democrats have launched an inquiry into impeachment proceedings against President Trump. This is following reports that President Trump had pressured the Ukrainian President to investigate the son of the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, Joe Biden. In both cases fundamental pillars of democracies are acting to check the abuse of executive power: in the UK, the judiciary and the US, the legislature.

No matter how we might feel about the proceedings in either case, they remain fundamental to our democracy. Using vitriolic language about these systems will put us all at risk, no matter how we might identify politically. That’s why responses to the past events have caused such outrage. Talk of “constitutional coups” and “hoaxes” is deeply worrying. The Executive’s penchant to undermine the judiciary or legislature through language and actions will not end well.

Fair Vote UK is waging its own battle to hold the powerful to account. With your support, we’ve raised nearly £12k for legal fees for our new case in Mississippi. This case will determine if UK citizens’ data was off-shored by Arron Banks’s companies to be used without people’s consent. To donate, please go to https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/data-arronbanks/ or share the link on Facebook or Twitter to raise support. Checks on power are fundamental to our democracy. That might be at the highest court in the land or in Congress, or it might even be in a court in Mississippi. We’ll also have an update for you soon about our judicial review against the government for failing to have a public inquiry into the EU referendum.

Rule Breaking Still Ruling the Roost?

18/09/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Rule Breaking Still Ruling the Roost?”

The rule of law is essential for any democracy: it’s Politics 101. We now know what impact rule breaking has: in referendums and elections. But it’s not like rule breaking has taken a back seat since 2016; it’s still a problem we face today in democracies across the world. 

 

That’s why we at Fair Vote UK are keenly watching the developments in the UK justice system. Today, the UK Supreme Court will resume its hearing into whether Boris Johnson acted lawfully in suspending Parliament. Two appeals are at play: one from Boris Johnson’s government contesting the recent ruling in the Scottish Courts and the other from campaigner Gina Miller. If the Supreme Court upholds the Scottish Court’s ruling and sides with Gina Miller’s appeal, it will be another proven example of the government’s current fashion for tearing up the rules and norms that have kept democracies strong for centuries. Where will it end if we don’t put a stop to this?

 

Across the pond, Fair Vote UK is fighting its own battle against rule breaking. Last year, a former senior Cambridge Analytica employee told MPs that she believed Cambridge Analytica and Leave.EU took data from UKIP and combined it with user data from a series of US and UK-based companies to manipulate the outcome of the Brexit referendum. Fair Vote UK pursued a preservation order in Mississippi over this data so that the companies in question could not destroy or tamper with it. Though unsuccessful in the first attempt, we believe we have now met the court’s criteria and refiled a motion. 

 

In both cases, powerful players are trying to break the rules to get what they want. Why should government stifle debate because they can’t control it? Why should powerful companies, and their wealthy backers, have more of a say? 

You can help with our case in Mississippi. We have set up a crowdfunder to pay for legal fees for the court case. To support our crowdfunder got to: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/data-arronbanks/ If you can’t give (or already have done) then please share the link and get the word out. This is important. This is about the right of the people to chart their own democratic destinies free from manipulation.

Press Release: Fair Vote UK launches crowdfunder to fight Cambridge Analytica-related data case against Arron Banks

06/09/2019 Posted by News, Press Releases 0 thoughts on “Press Release: Fair Vote UK launches crowdfunder to fight Cambridge Analytica-related data case against Arron Banks”

Fair Vote UK launches crowdfunder to fight Cambridge Analytica-related data case against Arron Banks

 

Fair Vote UK has today launched a crowdfunder in order to pursue further legal action against Arron Banks and his companies to determine whether UK citizens’ data was off-shored to be used without their consent. 

 

Last year Brittany Kaiser, former Cambridge Analytica employee, said while giving testimony to the DCMS select committee that Eldon Insurance and Big Data Dolphins were storing and using British citizen’s data in Mississippi. This was further backed up by research done by Dr. Emma Briant, who brought forward audio recordings of Andy Wigmore (Director of Communications for Leave.EU) where Mr. Wigmore suggests UK citizens’ data was illegally stored in Mississippi.

 

In response to this revelation, Fair Vote UK immediately secured legal counsel in Mississippi and pursued a preservation order over this data so that the companies in question could not destroy or tamper with it. They were – at the time – granted a temporary injunction. Fair Vote UK went to Mississippi to testify in the hope of being granted a permanent injunction.

 

The Information Commissioner’s Office wrote a letter strongly supporting Fair Vote UK’s pursuit of this data, and stated its desire to investigate the data in question:

 

“Preservation and access to this data is of significant importance to the ICO’s current investigation. For this reason, and in light of potential uncertainty as to whether the data will remain preserved beyond the hearing on 5 June 2018, the ICO lends its support to Fair Vote Project’s claim for permanent injunctive relief.”

 

Fair Vote UK was unsuccessful in their first attempt, with the court noting certain criteria it would like the entity to meet. Fair Vote UK has now met – to our knowledge – that criteria and thus refiled their motion.

 

Arron Banks and his group of companies have not yet admitted offshoring of UK citizens’ data despite officers being on tape saying they did in fact offshore data, which is further evidenced by emails obtained during the first hearing.

 

Fair Vote UK Director Kyle Taylor said: “We don’t want to stop our pursuit. If this injunction is obtained, it could set a precedent and open the door to other cases where individuals can seek to discover and repatriate illegally held data – an issue we now know is a global one.

 

“While the UK agonises over its political future, calls to defend our democracy have missed the fact our democracy hasn’t been up to the job for quite some time. Data and democracy are now intimately linked. We need now to ask for full democratic accountability. To get there we need to hold any individual or organisation who has abused the weaknesses in our data-driven democratic processes to account.”

 

“This is not about Brexit and for us never has been, this is about the right of the people to chart their own democratic destinies free from manipulation and that means their data needs to be protected.”

 

About the need for the crowdfunding, Taylor added: “While we have been fortunate to have had pro-bono legal support and some early donors, to continue this lawsuit we need to crowdfund for legal fees and associated costs. It is likely we will end up back in Court. We are up against a very well-funded opposition. Arron Banks’ group of companies chose independently to fight our efforts to obtain information and documents, which raises some very serious questions. We believe strongly that this case needs to be seen through, and we’re grateful for any support.”

 

ENDS

For press enquiries please contact [email protected] or call 07554 665 940

Notes

If you use any part of Kyle Taylor’s quotation please include a link to the crowdfunder.

Link to crowdfunder: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/data-arronbanks/

Bank Holiday Surprise: The Assault on British Democracy Continues

29/08/2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “Bank Holiday Surprise: The Assault on British Democracy Continues”

The UK is left reeling from the latest assault on its democracy. On 28 August, Prime Minister Boris Johnson received assent from the Queen to prorogue Parliament. If the plans go ahead, Parliament will now be suspended for five weeks ahead of 31 October, the day the UK is due to leave the EU. Boris Johnson has only spent one day under parliamentary scrutiny, and if the prorogation goes ahead, will only face it for one week. This move severely restricts MP’s room to act to stop a no-deal Brexit.

This coup flies in the face of democratic norms and is part of a wider trend. Since the EU Referendum campaign of 2016, certain political leaders have consistently demonstrated that they have a disregard for our democracy. Is a Brexit-at-all-costs worth breaking our democracy for? When and where will this end?