Online harms – Labour calls for action to ‘protect our democracy’
As the government prepares to publish its internet safety strategy, opposition MPs urge action on online political campaigning
A government online crackdown must contain measures to prevent voters being duped by social media ads, Labour has demanded.
Ministers are expected to publish the Online Harms White Paper today, setting out ways to protect people when they use the internet.
It will outline measures aimed at cracking down on a range of threats such as cyber-bulling and hate speech.
But Labour have warned that it will fail if it does not include measures to "protect our democracy" by dealing with targeted ads spreading fake political news on sites like Facebook.
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In a letter to culture secretary Jeremy Wright, seen by PublicTechnology sister publication PoliticsHome, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson and shadow digital minister Liam Byrne say: "One of the tests of the forthcoming white paper is: does it protect our democracy? If the answer is no the exercise will have failed. Parliament’s DCMS Select Committee has already warned of the serious risks of inaction and proposed reforms that the Government have not responded to. The Electoral Commission have also proposed changes to rules regulating political campaigning online and these have not been responded to.”
The letter added: "Even Mark Zuckerberg, who to many represents the epitome of all that is wrong with the social media giants, has said this past week that governments need to regulate internet giants to protect ‘election integrity’. I hope your government will not introduce lower standards than even Mark Zuckerberg proposes. With a general election or referendum looming it is the Government’s urgent responsibility to take action to protect the integrity of our democratic processes. Failure to do so in the Online Harms White Paper would be a dereliction of duty to our democracy. We hope that does not prove to be the case."
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Brendan Clarke-Smith has been an MP since 2019 and has proven a strident media and online figure on issues such as his support for the former PM and criticism of the ‘woke agenda’