Government promises ‘regular and robust dialogue’ with social networks on election disinformation

Representative points to steps taken so far but says ‘there is clearly much more to be done’

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As the election campaign kicks into gear, the government has promised to have “regular and robust dialogue” with social media firms to try and stem the spread of disinformation.

In answer to a written question from Labour peer Lord Kennedy, Cabinet Office spokesperson Earl Howe said that the government has already “built relationships with social media companies”. He pointed to some work already undertaken by websites in advance of the election, but claimed there is a great deal more they could do.

“[We] will continue to have regular and robust dialogue with them on how to limit the spread of disinformation and other kinds of propaganda designed to serve political interests,” he said. “Social media platforms have taken action to protect the integrity and security of the elections. They are providing online safety and security guidance to parties and candidates and are improving transparency of political advertising on their platforms and processes for removal of fake accounts. While we welcome these measures, there is clearly much more to be done to tackle these issues and other online harms.”

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In addition to the measures being put in place by social media outfits, there is also work taking place “across government to strengthen our electoral system and defend it from interference”, Earl Howe said. Most notably is the Defending Democracy programme, which is being run by the Cabinet Office. 

The scheme will, Earl Howe said, “pull together existing work and expertise in this area from right across government”.

He added: “The Defending Democracy programme has been set up by the government in order to protect and secure UK democratic processes, systems and institutions from interference including from cyber, personnel and physical threats; to strengthen the integrity of UK elections; to encourage respect for open, fair and safe democratic participation; and to promote fact-based and open discourse, including online.”

Alongside the Defending Democracy scheme are a number of other initiatives designed “to better safeguard UK elections by cracking down on intimidation, malign influence, interference and disinformation”. 

“This included commitments to launch a consultation on electoral integrity and implement a digital imprints regime for online election material,” Earl Howe said.


Sam Trendall

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