I am delighted to have been invited to give evidence at a Meeting of Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Transparency in political social media is of deep importance to democracy.
I was due to appear today, but due to time constraints, that will take place at a later date. This meeting is in relation to Deputy James Lawless’ Social Media Transparency Bill, as well as recent revelations regarding Facebook and Cambridge Analytica.
You can read my full submission here, and the main points of the executive summary are below:
- Problematic issues in regulation social media have been known for some time, the era of self-regulation must come to an end
- However, overly simplistic to ‘blame’ the online platforms for this, must be collaborative
- Problem of fake or automated accounts is vast within social media
- ‘Viral’ propagation of messages is quite rare, information generally cascades via a traditional ‘broadcast’ model
- Misinformation not easily corrected, continues to be shared after being debunked
- Hence easy for adversaries to push disinformation, sowing confusion
- An environment has developed where it is difficult for citizens to know what is true and trustworthy
- Politicians must improve own cybersecurity practices as a matter of urgency
- Much of the content of the Bill has been pre-empted by policy changes by the online platforms in the last six months in political ad transparency
- However, changes have yet to take effect – urge immediate roll-out here of political advertisement changes
- While transparency in online political advertising is probably achievable, not clear that making bots illegal is feasible, suggest mandatory labelling by online platforms
- Urge Government to invest in interdisciplinary research on these topics in local context
- Urge progress of permanent Electoral Commission to oversee all political advertising
- Urge Government to consider national factual information/education campaigns on online platforms
I will update this page later, once I’ve spoken at the Committee.