Full Fact welcomes new report from Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee

29 June 2020 | Full Fact Team

Everyone deserves access to good information. That’s why our work doesn’t stop once we’ve published a fact check—we campaign to change debate for the better, and share what we’re learning in our fight against bad information. 

Today saw the publication of a report by a committee in the House of Lords who were tasked with considering the impact of digital technologies on our democracy. 

The report makes a series of recommendations for the government about how to tackle what the committee sees as “a pandemic of misinformation” and the critical need to rebuild the public’s trust. The report points to research Full Fact did during the 2019 election that showed that “misinformation reduces faith in democracy, trust in politicians and people’s drive to participate” as well as the written and oral evidence we submitted to the committee.

There is much to welcome in the report and its recommendations. We are glad that the committee has taken on board many of the comments that Full Fact made.

In particular we welcome:  

  • The recommendations that the government’s planned Online Harms Bill be brought forward this year, and that the duty of care extends to actions which undermine democracy.

  • Recognition of the important role that fact checkers play in combating bad information online, and the pressures that we face when expanding our work across multiple platforms.

  • That the report underlines the urgency with which the government must introduce reform to protect our democracy. We have consistently called for the reform of our election law in the UK to bring it up to date with the digital nature of modern political campaigning. 

  • That the report supports our Full Fact 2020 report in recognising the importance of increased transparency around the algorithms that the internet companies use, particularly to reduce the risk of algorithmic biases. The report notes that must be matched by increased collaboration with independent researchers, including access to data for experts and fact checkers. 

  • Recognition of the importance of digital media literacy skills, and the recommendation that the government should first map the many existing digital literacy schemes across the UK and share best practice.

  • The recommendation that an independent democratic information hub be established to provide the public with information about democracy and to help policymakers and civil society organisations share best practice 

The report makes clear how important good information is to society, and we are pleased to see the emphasis on the risks that bad information poses to a democracy. As our chief executive Will Moy told the committee: 

“Bad information can ruin lives. It damages people’s health. It promotes hate and it hurts democracy. We now see people suffering from curable diseases because they have been misled by false information about vaccines. There is false information about public health issues related, for example, to the rollout of 5G mobile communications technology. We see terrorist attacks sometimes promoted by people who have been radicalised by false information online.”

Full Fact is grateful for your support in helping us fight bad information, and in ensuring that we are able to contribute to important parliamentary discussions like this one.

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Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.