Electoral Commission admits digital politics is a problem

The Electoral Commission has printed a report on the December General Election. It can be found here. (exact date of the report is not mentioned but is sometime in June). It is similar to the report given earlier. Election financial information is posted here but with no information on computer system costs.

The following are quotes from the report:

The election was generally well-run, but there is new evidence showing challenges for the future

The 2019 UK Parliamentary general election was held on Thursday 12 December. More than 40 million people were registered to vote, and the turnout of registered voters was 67%. There were high levels of satisfaction with the processes of registering to vote and voting. These were similar to other recent elections in the UK.

Beneath this generally positive picture, however, we have also seen evidence about concerns and problems at this election. Some people did not receive the service they should be able to expect, and many were not confident that the election was well run.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/uk-general-elections/report-overview-2019-uk-parliamentary-general-election

The concerns were as follows:

  • Misleading campaign techniques risk undermining voters’ trust
  • The rules for campaigners need modernising for the digital age
  • Tackling intimidation of candidates requires a holistic approach
  • Steps taken to secure the democratic processes must continue

These are quotes from the report:

People were concerned about misleading campaign techniques from across the political spectrum, and bias in the media. We received a large number of complaints raising concerns about the presentation, tone and content of election campaigns
Transparency about who is behind political campaigns online at elections is important for people in the UK. In our research after the election, nearly three quarters of people agreed that it was important for them to know who produced the political information they see online, but less than a third agreed that they can find out who has produced it

The UK Government and other bodies monitored digital campaigning during the election period for risks to democratic processes from foreign interference and organised disinformation. The UK Government has said that work to examine these aspects after the election is ongoing

The UK Government should also set out plans to modernise the rules for campaigners to keep pace with the digital age. The law should tell campaigners and digital platforms the amount and type of information they need to give to voters, the media, other campaigners and regulators, including to us.

At this election, Facebook, Google and Snapchat published libraries and reports of the political advertising run on their platforms and channels during the election. They also required political advertisers to put ‘Paid for by’ disclaimers on their political adverts.

These measures are a step in the right direction and they enabled us to see who is paying to place adverts. But they still don’t provide enough information about digital campaigning.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/who-we-are-and-what-we-do/elections-and-referendums/past-elections-and-referendums/uk-general-elections/report-overview-2019-uk-parliamentary-general-election

Quite a few problems here…

Whilst admitting a problem, the EC did not have any solution. Plus they are gaslighting you. Gaslighting by ommission. The EC report did not admit the full scope of the problem which have been known about since at least EU Referendum and 2016 Presidential Elections. We know this because Elizabeth Denham, the UK ICO Commissioner (that regulates data privacy) announced the problem with social media and data analytics in 2018!

Fact 1: The fact that the electoral registration system is broken. Local Council election management systems are out of date. Central Government systems (and no doubt Dominic Cummings’ Voter Intention Collection System) has far better demographic systems which could automatically update electoral rolls.

Fact 2: The EC do not even admit that the social media platforms collect “pyschographic” information – a more likely barometer of voter intentions than any sample survey. The EC is out of touch with the digital world. While the ICO recognises the problem (in part), they have no teeth to do anything about it.

Fact 3: The EC do not mention the true level of postal vote problem – only that there was some confusion. When some people apparently tried to register three times or so, and late into the election process, this is a warning that voter fraud is being undertaken! (The process is described here).

Fact 4: But worst of all is the online manipulation of voters and even mainstream media by fake news spread by bots and sockpuppets (fake accounts). This is not just a vague Trump-style throw away… but it was specifcally recorded, tracked and documented… even by the BBC! This event alone demonstrates the vast power that computers and automation (weilded by the Tories) can do to twart the democratic process. This issue is not addressed either by the EC or ICO.

I’ll leave the conclusion of this article as as a quote

“The invisible, ‘behind the scenes’ use of personal data to target political messages to individuals must be transparent and lawful if we are to preserve the integrity of our election process.”

Elizabeth Denham, the UK ICO Commissioner November 2018

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