Dishonest communication aimed at influencing public behaviour poses a direct threat to democratic values, according to a report published by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee.
The cross-party report – Disinformation and ‘fake news’ – sets out a compelling case for subjecting social media companies to the same regulatory standards applied to traditional forms of media regulated by Ofcom.
The report calls on the Government to conduct research into the methods by which misinformation and disinformation are created and spread across the internet.
Sarah Hall Chart.PR, FCIPR, CIPR President said:
This report is a pertinent reminder of the challenges facing modern media and society. Ethically competent public relations professionals can – and must – play a key role in fighting fake news and data misuse. Our ability to deliver strategic value is dependent on honest and truthful communication. It’s our responsibility to stand up for truth and denounce dishonest information in every form.
But ultimately the solution to this issue will take multiple forms. Social media platforms must take more responsibility for content appearing on their sites. We echo the committee’s calls for the creation of a third category, beyond ‘platform’ and ‘publisher’. This will lay the foundation for sensible regulation which prioritises accuracy and impartiality, without compromising free speech.
The document also recommends creating a public register for political advertising to improve campaigning transparency, an initiative backed by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA).