1.The DCMS Committee held an extensive and high-profile inquiry into Disinformation and ‘Fake News’ between September 2017 and February 2019. The inquiry’s reach was wide and deep, covering individuals’ rights over their privacy, the effect of online content on people’s political choices, and digital interference in elections both in this country and across the world.
2.During the inquiry, we held 23 oral evidence sessions, taking evidence from 73 witnesses. We undertook many exchanges of public and private correspondence with individuals and organisations alongside. We worked closely with other national parliaments, and held the first ‘international grand committee’, under which representatives of eight other parliaments sat with us in Westminster in a formal hearing. We published two landmark Reports, in July 2018 and February 2019.
3.In our Reports, we highlighted seven areas: the definition, role and legal liabilities of social media platforms; data misuse and targeting, based around the Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and Aggregate IQ allegations, including evidence from the documents we obtained from Six4Three about Facebook’s knowledge of and participation in data-sharing; political campaigning; Russian influence in political campaigns; SCL influence in foreign elections; and digital literacy. In our Final Report, we incorporated analysis by the consultancy firm, 89up, of the repository data we received from Chris Vickery, in relation to the AIQ database.
4.As we stated upon publication on 18 February, “this is the Final Report in our inquiry, but it will not be the final word.” We believe that there is a public interest in continuing our examination of the continuing threat posed by disinformation to democracies.
5.In order to do this, we are forming a new Sub-Committee on Disinformation. We are launching a new website and will hold evidence sessions in May 2019 with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP, and with the Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham. Among other issues, we will discuss with them the Government’s response to our report on ‘Disinformation and ‘Fake News’’, and the White Paper on Online Harms, due to be published shortly.
6.All Members of the DCMS Committee will be able to attend the Sub-Committee. In addition, we plan to make use of the new Standing Order enabling us to invite members of any other select committee to attend any meeting of the Sub-Committee to ask questions of witnesses. In this way, the Sub-Committee will become Parliament’s ‘institutional home’ for matters concerning disinformation and data privacy; a focal point that will bring together those seeking to scrutinise and examine this threat to democracy.
7.The Sub-Committee will continue our important work underway with other national parliaments via the ‘international grand committee’. We are proud of the collaboration that we have begun. We look forward to visiting Ottawa and other capitals to participate in further meetings.
8.In launching this Sub-Committee, we are creating a standing programme of work. It signals our commitment to continuing our rigorous scrutiny of democratic accountability, and to play our part in protecting individuals from the insidious onslaught of disinformation and digital disruption. We look forward to continuing the highly important work that we have begun.
1 Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Fifth Report of 2017–19, (29 July 2018, HC 363) and (Eighth Report of 2017019, 17 February 2019, HC 1791)
2 (Eighth Report of 2017019, 17 February 2019, HC 1791), p.5
3 These sessions will take place on the 8 May and 14 May 2019, respectively.
5 This session will take place in the Canadian Parliament on 28 May 2019, hosted by The Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.
Published: 02 April 2019