Lords committee to explore impact of technology on democracy

The UK’s House of Lords has appointed a new special inquiry committee to investigate the impact of digital technologies on democracy.

Chaired by Lord Puttnam, the committee will look at how the growth in digital platforms has changed the way politics functions.

It will explore what this means for “the future of plural, representative democracy”, in light of political parties, campaigners and government increasingly focusing on online and social media to communicate with the public.

The move also comes just over a year after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. In early 2018, it emerged that political consulting and data mining firm Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal data of millions of Facebook user profiles without their consent, using the information for political advertising purposes.

Lords’ decision to investigate the technology industry in this way comes amid calls for more regulation of the sector and the big players within it, including the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple.

Commenting, Lord Puttnam said: “Digital technologies are changing every aspect of our lives, and they are clearly having a significant impact on democracy and the way in which we carry out politics in this country.

“We need to understand how best to respond to this challenge; whether we have the right models in place to regulate online political communications and the best means of ensuring the public develop faith in what they see and hear online. Representative democracy is vulnerable, and will only be preserved if we understand how precious it is, and treat it with the care and attention it deserves.”

He added: “We will shortly be publishing a call for evidence in which we’ll set out the kind of evidence we’ll be seeking. Our inquiry can only be as good as the quality of the evidence we receive, so I’d encourage anyone with an interest in our work to respond with views and suggestions on this increasingly vital issue.”

Click here to see the members of the House of Lords who have been appointed to the committee.

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