The House of Lords Select Committee on Democracy and Digital Technologies was established on 13 June 2019 and asked to report by 31 March 2020.
With the growth of digital media, methods of political communication and campaigning have evolved. The impact of digital technologies on our democratic processes has come under increasing scrutiny. Many are of the view that digital technologies offer significant potential benefits for the extension of democracy, while others fear that such technologies may actually undermine the democratic process. As well as covering the effects of digital technologies on the electoral process and political campaigns, the Committee wishes to consider the effects of technology on political debate more broadly, and the wider public’s engagement with and participation in political discourse.
The Committee has decided to focus on the issue of how representative democracy can be supported, rather than undermined, in a digital world. It will primarily look across six key areas: transparency in political campaigns; privacy and anonymity; misinformation; the effects of digital technologies on public discourse; how technology can facilitate democracy and the development of effective digital literacy.
The Committee is seeking input on the following questions:
(1)How has digital technology changed the way that democracy works in the UK and has this been a net positive or negative effect?
(2)How have the design of algorithms used by social media platforms shaped democratic debate? To what extent should there be greater accountability for the design of these algorithms?
(3)What role should every stage of education play in helping to create a healthy, active, digitally literate democracy?
(4)Would greater transparency in the online spending and campaigning of political groups improve the electoral process in the UK by ensuring accountability, and if so, what should this transparency look like?
(5)What effect does online targeted advertising have on the political process, and what effects could it have in the future? Should there be additional regulation of political advertising?
(6)To what extent does increasing use of encrypted messaging and private groups present a challenge to the democratic process?
(7)What are the positive or negative effects of anonymity on online democratic discourse?
(8)To what extent does social media negatively shape public debate, either through encouraging polarisation or through abuse deterring individuals from engaging in public life?
(9)To what extent do you think that there are those who are using social media to attempt to undermine trust in the democratic process and in democratic institutions; and what might be the best ways to combat this and strengthen faith in democracy?
(10)What might be the best ways of reducing the effects of misinformation on social media platforms?
(11)How could the moderation processes of large technology companies be improved to better tackle abuse and misinformation, as well as helping public debate flourish?
(12)How could the Government better support the positive work of civil society organisations using technology to facilitate engagement with democratic processes?
(13)How can elected representatives use technology to engage with the public in local and national decision making? What can Parliament and Government do to better use technology to support democratic engagement and ensure the efficacy of the democratic process?
(14)What positive examples are there of technology being used to enhance democracy?
The deadline for written evidence is 20 September 2019.