Crackdown on political advertising following spread of disinformation on social media

The government is preparing further proposals on the regulation of online content, including around the use of political advertising, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has said.

There are worries about the new legislation affecting freedom of expression online. Picture: Getty
There are worries about the new legislation affecting freedom of expression online. Picture: Getty

Speaking on the day the government published its White Paper about online harm, which proposes new measures to regulate internet companies who do not adequately protect their users, Mr Wright confirmed the government was also looking into online political advertising practices.

Concerns have been raised about the use of advertising networks on some social media platforms to aid election interference and spread disinformation.

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“It is important to recognise that this White Paper is a part of the government’s response to a number of challenges the online world presents us with, and what people will see very shortly is further work coming from the Cabinet Office that deals with some of the challenges to our democracy that the online world presents,” Mr Wright said. “So no-one should imagine that this White Paper is the sum total of what the government is saying. There will be more to come.”

The Culture Secretary also responded to suggestions that the list of proposals in the White Paper were too broad to effectively implement and regulate.

They suggest the introduction of a statutory duty of care for internet companies, as well as codes of practice and requirements to respond to user complaints, with firms facing the prospect of large fines if they breach these rules.

The White Paper also calls for the appointment of an independent regulator to enforce the new guidelines.

“I’m sure that people will be able to find things on that list that they think are excessive, but also I’m sure there will be people who will say, ‘Why haven’t we got x, y or z’ on the list,” he said.

“That list isn’t static, it may change over time because one of the things about the internet we all recognise is that it moves fast.

“So it’s important that the regulator has flexibility to address new harms.”

Concerns have also been raised over how the rules could affect freedom of expression and speech online, with parts of the proposals suggesting companies should be pushed to more aggressively find and remove material classed as disinformation.