New Measures Announced to Protect UK Elections from Foreign Interference
New laws will aim to safeguard UK elections from hostile powers, foreign lobbyists and “shadowy third parties.”
The UK Government has announced a range of new measures to protect elections and referendums from the risk of interference by foreign powers.
“Protecting the integrity of UK elections” is a key focus of the new measures, the government said, as it looks to crack down on “intimidation, influence and disinformation.”
Commenting on the move, Minister for the Consitution Kevin Foster said: “There is no evidence that British elections or referendums have been compromised. One of Britain’s most valuable safeguards is the use of pencil and paper to vote.”
Foster conceded, however, that the government should revise and update potentially outdated legislation to accommodate for a digital age.
“We need to review and refresh our analogue laws for a digital age and ensure there are robust safeguards against hostile states, foreign lobbyists and shadowy third parties,” he said.
To tackle the threat of “shadowy third parties” and hostile foreign states, new legislation could see people banned from running for public office for up to five years for intimidating candidates or campaigners in the run-up to elections.
New laws to improve the transparency of campaigning and voter targetting will also be introduced. Political parties and non-party campaigners will be required to ‘imprint’ their digital election materials under these new rules.
Work on digital election materials will draw upon recommendations put forward by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with a technical proposal expected to be published later this year.
The Government has also committed to launching a consultation on electoral integrity to assess the risk of foreign interference and develop safeguards against future risks. This consultation could consider a number of recommendations, such as closing loopholes on foreign spending in elections and preventing shell companies from circumventing current legislation on political finance and lobbying.
Damian Collins MP, chair of the DCMS cross-party committee, welcomed the government’s announcement on Twitter, stating: “I’m pleased the Cabinet Office has accepted the recommendation of the committee report on disinformation and will require political adverts online to clearly state who is paying for them. We’ll be publishing the full govt response to our report next week.”