WESTMINSTER DIARIES: Electoral laws not keeping pace with modern technology - The Solihull Observer

WESTMINSTER DIARIES: Electoral laws not keeping pace with modern technology

Solihull Editorial 25th Aug, 2018   0

One of the things at very heart of British democracy is our sense of fair play. Unlike elections in some other countries, such as the United States, we have always imposed reasonable limits on what campaigns can do and spend during elections.

This is not only to ensure that one side can’t simply try to buy their way to victory, but to keep campaigns on a scale which can be effectively overseen by our regulators, such as the Electoral Commission.

Unfortunately, our laws have not been keeping pace with the huge advances made by modern technology in recent years. As a member of the House of Commons’ Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee, I have seen first-hand the enormous power which social media giants now wield in our democracy.

I’m proud to have helped shine an international spotlight on the conduct of firms such as Facebook – my questioning of Mike Shroepfer, their chief technical officer, over his employer’s immoral conduct made headlines around the world.

Now I am convinced that, if public confidence in our electoral system is to be upheld, we need to introduce new and up-to-date electoral regulation. Our Committee’s interim proposals have outlined several suggested measures for making social media companies more responsible.

We have also outlined how the Electoral Commission could be given more powers to enforce the rules, and I also want to make it a top priority to ensure that every citizen has control over their information, and the right to know what data a company such as Facebook is storing about them.

However, I strongly believe that those charged with safeguarding the integrity of elections must hold themselves to the highest possible standards of impartiality – especially if they are to be granted sweeping new powers.

If one side of the argument believes that the regulator is biased – as many Brexiteers currently suspect of the Electoral Commission – that is every bit as corrosive as allegations of cheating.

Finally, I would just like my warmest congratulations to local Councillor Brian Holmes on being selected to represent his local Royal British Legion at the centenary ceremony of the Great War at the Menin Gate on August 5. We owe an enormous debt to the men and women who have laid down their lives to defend this country, and I’m proud that Brian represented overseas the same spirit of thanks and remembrance that I see in our community every year.

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