THERE’S no denying that our society is increasingly addicted to devices that deliver a constant stream of information and messages via Facebook, Twitter, Google and the internet in general.

16 to 24-year-olds, on average, during a 16-hour day, look at their phones every 6.4 minutes and during this time they will be unwittingly targeted by a great deal of ‘fake news.’

For the past 10 months I have been on the intense Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee inquiry into disinformation and ‘fake news’ looking at how this is disseminated through social media and the affect it is having on society.

The term ‘fake news’ should not be taken lightly, what fake news can be is the deliberate targeting of people with campaigns of disinformation designed to confuse and mislead and ultimately influence actions in an alarming manner by playing on their fears and prejudices.

With its 2 billions users, you can appreciate how powerfully Facebook might be harnessed to do this and how difficult it might be to distinguish between what’s true and what’s fake.

Our inquiry discovered society faces real dangers from the spread of ‘disinformation’ and ‘misinformation’ without people’s consent.

We have called for “absolute transparency of online political campaigning” with a requirement for social media giants to be classified neither as “publishers” nor “platforms” but legally redefined in a third category that enhances their accountability for the content they host, without imperilling free political discourse.

We have also recommended a new kitemarking-type system be introduced so people can clearly see the level of verification of information on a site (how ‘true’ the information is).

Critically we call for children to be educated so as to be ‘digitally literate’ from a young age. This could be funded through an educational levy paid by social media companies.

This may all sound far fetched, but wherever you live, the threats are real and I shall be ensuring Government takes these recommendations on board.


MP for Taunton Deane