New platform watchdog call

Big tech should fund an independent platform agency to police fake news, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of self-regulation by digital platforms and the development of quality journalism, the report of a year-long commission urges this week.

The London School of Economics-led Truth, Trust and Technology Commission (T3) makes the call in its final report, Tackling the Information Crisis, setting out a strategy to “build a more resilient media system fit for the information ecosystem in the UK”.

It says the new agency should be a watchdog rather than a regulator, reporting to parliament and offering policy advice.

The creation of the commission was sparked by anxieties around fake news in particular. For a year it grappled with big questions about the kind of information society people want, how to reduce misinformation and protect democracy from digital damage – and how to help people make the most of the internet’s opportunities while avoiding the harm it can cause.

Its report points to problems with the media and elections in the UK, recommending that parliament “urgently brings forward” legislation to introduce a statutory code on political advertising, as has already been recommended by the Information Commissioner.

The report says the new platform watchdog should be funded by a new levy on UK social media and search advertising revenue. It also says the agency should act as “a permanent forum for monitoring and reviewing the behaviour of online platforms and provide annual reviews of ‘the state of disinformation’”.

Among the report’s other recommendations are new forms of support for the traditional news industry. It says the government should mobilise and coordinate an integrated new programme in media literacy. This, it says, should focus on children in schools, with a compulsory media literacy module in citizenship classes, but also on adults in further and vocational education.

The T3 commission was led by professor Charlie Beckett and overseen by commissioners, including leading figures from media and information sectors, politics, academia and civil society.

Beckett blogged this week that “the central message from this report is that the information crisis is causing real problems – in health for example, as well as politics. Any approach to deal with it must be structural because this is a systematic problem that needs a coordinated, comprehensive response.”

The commission was chaired by Dr Sonia Livingstone. Listen to her discussion with Jamie Bartlett of the centre for analysis of social media at Demos at last month’s Power & Responsibility Summit, organised by DigitalAgenda, below.

Watch a short talk by Charlie Beckett on the T3 commission:

Sonia Livingstone: Time to rethink truth and trust

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