MPs Call For Protection From Hacking Ahead of Elections

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The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCSM) committee has called for the government to introduce legislation within six months to protect against online electoral interference, as well as a statutory veto over the appointment of a new online harms regulator.

In a report released yesterday (July 1), MPs of the committee have accused the government of “ignoring recommendations in the DCMS Committee’s final report into Disinformation and ‘fake news’ for urgent action.”

Damian Collins, chair of the DCMS Committee, said: “We’re calling on the government to bring in urgent legislation before the end of the year to protect our democracy against online electoral interference.

“We know that our electoral laws are not fit for purpose. Political campaigns are fought online, not through the letterbox and our laws need to be brought up to date with the digital age. We’ve repeatedly highlighted threats to our electoral system and it’s essential that public confidence is restored.”

The MPs believe the government has ignored recommendations on the following actions: 

  • Introduce a new category for digital spending on political campaigns
  • Ensure information about all online political advertising material is logged in a searchable public repository
  • Acknowledge the risks of foreign investment in elections, for example via digital payments
  • Acknowledge the role and power of unpaid campaigns and Facebook Groups in influencing elections and referendums, inside and outside the designated period

They have given the government a deadline of July 24 to respond. The committee will also take further evidence on the subject during July 2019, including taking advice on how such legislation might be drafted and explore how anti-money laundering regulations might be adapted to ensure political parties can be held accountable for their financing practices in the era of digital payment systems. According to its news alert, in evidence, Elizabeth Denham said was “surprised and disappointed that there was not more focus on […] electoral interference, and on the need for more transparency in political advertising.”

MPs are also calling for the government to demonstrate its commitment to public confidence in the new online harms regulator by giving the DCMS Committee a statutory veto over the appointment and dismissal of the chief executive of the new regulator. The Government is asked to respond by the end of July to confirm its support for the Committee’s role in the appointment process, including the provision of a statutory veto.

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