Internet Policy and Cybersecurity Consultant, Oxford Information Labs
Manipulation of the public through social media poses a critical threat to democracy. To counter it, many social media platforms have announced algorithmic changes designed to counter disinformation. By examining broader digital marketing practices, however, this report finds that platforms made a smaller number of algorithmic changes than the announcements implied and that the impact of changes on suppressing disinformation or promoting meaningful engagements was short-lived.
In this context, the authors point to a wider issue: the lack of transparency or accountability regarding or oversight into the ways in which the complex technical systems used by social media platforms make decisions that affect democratic processes. To counter this, the report argues that electoral regulation needs updating for a digital age. It recommends that the UK Electoral Commission’s powers should be expanded to reflect modern campaigning with reforms such a database of campaign accounts, digital imprints on campaign material, and increased co-operation with international partners.