A House of Lords committee on democracy and digital technologies has issued a call for ministers to toughen up regulation of digital and social media in response to the erosion of trust in politics and public institutions as a result of misinformation and disinformation.
Chaired by Labour peer and film producer David Puttnam, the committee has published a 153-page report containing a raft of different recommendations, including giving Ofcom the power of new sanctions against tech firms that fail in their duty of care, either through fines or blocking websites that are found to be serially non-compliant, the Guardian reports.
The argument was made that too much power has been given to “unelected and unaccountable” corporations, including Facebook and Google, which has led to the spreading of inaccurate news and a lack of regulation in political advertising – which is having a big impact on trust in both politics and institutions.
Another key recommendation was the creation of a regulatory committee on political advertising, with experts brought in from Ofcom, the UK Statistics Authority, the Electoral Commission and the Advertising Standards Authority.
In his foreword to the report, Mr Puttnam wrote: “This is a virus that affects all of us in the UK – a pandemic of misinformation and disinformation. If allowed to flourish, these counterfeit truths will result in the collapse of public trust and, without trust, democracy as we know it will simply decline into irrelevance. The situation is that serious.”
The Competition Markets Authority is also now calling on the government to bring in a new pro-competition regulatory regime to tackle the market power of Facebook and Google head on, after finding that the dynamic nature of digital advertising markets is such that current laws are not suitable for effective regulation.
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