Oxford University unit to address technology’s impact on democracy
New commission to release reports aimed at suggesting policy and programmes in areas such as fake news and internet regulation
The University of Oxford has launched a commission to examine the impact of technology on democracy and put forward ideas and initiatives that could prevent digital platforms having a malign effect on elections and the political process.
The Oxford Technology and Elections Commission – which met for the first time this week – will be comprised of researchers, policy specialists, and technology professionals. Its remit will include putting forward “specific action steps in research, practice, and policy to create a trusted environment for the use of technology in campaigns and elections”.
The commission, which is part of the university’s Oxford Internet Institute, will also seek to shine a light on policies and programmes from around the world that have proven effective in protecting privacy while promoting freedom of information and democratic participation.
Another role of the commission will be to create guidelines for policy and research that could help “effectively integrate data-intensive political campaigning with rules on elections administration”.
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The commission is set to release various reports in the coming months, covering topics such as how best to combat fake news, the threat posed by technology to the integrity of elections, and social-media regulation.
Christina Blacklaws, president of The Law Society of England and Wales, will form part of the commission.
She said: “Emergent technologies are creating a seismic shift in our societies, with new opportunities and challenges. One of the most fundamental and powerful areas where we experience this is in our democratic functions such as elections. The work of this commission is vital and timely. We need to address the potential problems to enable us to leverage the benefits. In many ways, this is one of the most important issues of our time.”
Four people will serve alongside Blacklaws as commissioners: Mohamed Amersi, CEO of Emergent Telecom Ventures; Dame Helen Ghosh, former Home Office permanent secretary; Philip Howard, director of the Oxford Internet Institute; and Paddy McGuinness, senior advisor at the Brunswick Group.
The commission will also feature various researchers including, Ravi Naik, a partner at Irvine Thanvi Natas Solicitors, and Emily Taylor, an associate fellow with the International Security Department.
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