Thompson calls for stronger approach to cyber threat

Tuesday March 9th 2021

Owen Thompson

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Midlothian’s MP is urging the UK government to do more to tackle the threat of so-called ‘cybertroops’ – or face a “major threat to our political system”.

Owen Thomson MP will today lead a debate on cybertroop activity, following a report from the University of Oxford which found evidence of organised social media manipulation in 81 countries, including the UK.

The report also found 48 countries used private firms to provide manipulation campaigns, spending in excess of $60 million since 2009.

Commenting, the MP for Midlothian said:

“Disinformation being deliberately spread online is a serious threat to democracy.

“Techniques like bots, doxing, doctoring media, trolling and online harassment all undermine our political discourse, and create a major threat to our political system.

“The riots we witnessed on Capitol Hill demonstrated how manipulation and disinformation campaigns can lead to devastating consequences. We’ve also seen it throughout this pandemic – powerful cybertroops amplifying conspiracy theories and distributing misinformation about public health messages.

“The threats to free and fair elections are not all from forces outside the UK. We urgently need to improve the rules around political campaigning and stop disinformation being spread with impunity.

“With an election on the horizon, we cannot keep putting our head in the sand and ignoring the impact this is having on society. Cyber-attacks and cyber troops are designed to discredit political opponents, bury opposing views and interfere in foreign affairs – all of which jeopardise the fundamentals of our democratic process.

“If Boris Johnson’s government does not take action to protect democracy from these dark arts, we leave ourselves vulnerable to serious cyber threats which endanger our elections, public services and democratic institutions.”

You can read the report HERE.

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