Online ‘pandemic of misinformation’ poses existential threat to UK’s democracy

An online ‘pandemic of ’ is posing an threat to the UK’s democracy and way of life, according to a chilling parliamentary report.

The report accused government ministers of failing to get to grips with the urgency of the challenges of the digital age.

And it called for immediate action to rein in tech giants, including new powers for proposed online harms regulator Ofcom to fine digital companies up to 4 per cent of their global turnover or force ISP blocking of serial offenders.

The report from the House of Lords and Digital Technologies Committee called for Ofcom to be given the power to hold digital platforms legally responsible for content they recommend to large audiences or that is produced by users with a large following.

And it said online platforms should be required to be transparent in how their algorithms work so they are not operating in ways that discriminate against minorities.

The cross-party committee called on the government to press ahead without delay on the publication of a promised Online Harms Bill to give Ofcom powers to regulate the online world.

Its report said that online platforms are not “inherently ungovernable” but warned power has been ceded to a “few unelected and unaccountable digital corporations” including Facebook and Google, and politicians must act now to hold them to account when they are shown to negatively influence public debate and undermine democracy.

The report also called for political advertising to be brought into line with other advertising in the requirement for truth and accuracy.

And it said that the political parties should work with the Advertising Standards Authority and other regulators to develop a code of practice that would ban “fundamentally inaccurate” advertising during elections and referendums.

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