Democracy is at risk unless the government and regulators take urgent action to combat a growing crisis of data manipulation, disinformation and so-called fake news, a parliamentary committee is expected to say. In damning conclusions to a report leaked by former Vote Leave campaign strategist Dominic Cummings before its official publication on Sunday, the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) committee adds to the growing calls for tougher government regulation of social media companies. It accuses them of profiting from misleading material and raises concerns about Russian involvement in British politics.
The report is expected to say that the “relentless targeting of hyper-partisan views, which play to the fears and prejudices of people, in order to influence their voting plans and their behaviour” posed a greater threat to democracy than more familiar forms of so-called fake news, raising particular concerns about the way online data could be manipulated to impact elections.
The DCMS committee has spent 18 months conducting a series of high-profile and often cantankerous evidence sessions in which the focus has shifted from disinformation to the influence of social networks, in particular Facebook, and the use of targeted adverts during the Brexit referendum.
Its work has drawn heavily on a series of reports in the Observer on the activities of data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica and the pro-Brexit Vote Leave campaign group during the referendum campaign.