Earlier this week, on Wednesday 3rd March, the Electoral Commission gave oral evidence to the House of Lord’s Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee. The discussion was wide ranging and what was most noticeable was how many of the topics raised were issues from APPG on Electoral Campaigning Transparency’s recently published report. If you’d like to see the evidence session, you can find a video link here. Both the questions from the Peers and answers from officials at the Electoral Commission covered the 20 recommendations of Defending our Democracy in the Digital Age.
Two lines of questioning were particularly striking. Firstly, there was no clarity as to why regulation on offline campaigning was significantly stronger than campaigning online. Secondly, laws need to catch up to the realities of digital technologies to allow the Electoral Commission to do its job. The current legal framework simply does not allow the Commission to properly regulate. Amongst other issues relevant to the report, they also discussed plans for better education campaigns at the primary and secondary level, better and more granular use of ad libraries and raising the sanction limit.
It’s great to see that the terms of debate are now set and Defending our Democracy in the Digital Age offers evidenced policy solutions. Most importantly we clearly need to change the law to ensure that our elections are properly safeguarded in the future. Regulators know this, experts know this, the public know this and politicians know this. It’s time for action.