Calls to update electoral law for digital age

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 13 December 2019 in News

Open Knowledge Foundation urges politicians to ‘stop playing fast and loose with the truth’

Credit: PA

Electoral law urgently needs to updated in light of the growth of digital campaigning, the Open Knowledge Foundation has warned.

With a new report from the Coalition for Reform in Political Advertising finding that at least 31 political advertising campaigns have been dishonest or untruthful in the course of the election campaign, Open Knowledge Foundation chief executive Catherine Stihler called for reform of electoral law, while urging politicians to “stop playing fast and loose with the truth”.

In October, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the company would ban all political ads on the platform, but parties have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on ads on Facebook and Instagram since the start of November.

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Political advertising is regulated outside of the Advertising Standards Authority, and the electoral law that applies ‘doesn't require claims in political campaigns to be truthful or factually accurate’, according to the House of Commons library.

Catherine Stihler, chief executive of the Open Knowledge Foundation, said: “This report shows that widespread disinformation has blighted this election campaign, and all main parties have been found guilty.

“Twitter’s recent decision to ban political adverts was a welcome step, but it was disappointing that Facebook failed to introduce a temporary ban on political ads. However, ultimately the long-term solution to this does not involve self-regulation. The only way to build a fair, free and open digital future in the UK and across the world is to update analogue electoral laws for the digital age.”

She added: “This must be urgently addressed by the next UK Government. But a crackdown on paid-for adverts alone can’t stop the spread of false information – it requires parties and politicians to stop playing fast and loose with the truth. The way forward for our politics is to resuscitate the three foundations of tolerance, facts and ideas.”


About the author

Liam Kirkaldy is online editor at PublicTechnology sister publication Holyrood, where this story first appeared. He tweets as @HolyroodLiam.

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