In “Why UK politics can’t escape US money” (FT Magazine, August 3), Gillian Tett asks what can be done to stop democracy being undermined by the forces of money, globalisation and digital technology.
There may be useful analogies with the food, pharmacy and financial services industries. Food products are starting to be labelled with a traffic light system of red, orange and green, depending on how unhealthy they are. Drugs have to be checked before they can be prescribed or sold. The rating agencies label financial products and auditors give an opinion on company financial statements. While all these regulatory mechanisms have weaknesses and failures of implementation, the basic idea of independent, government-authorised monitoring of quality appears valid.
The information industry currently has no such labelling but the components are there. There are fact checking agencies for information. Financial auditors take a very small sample of an organisation’s transactions to inform their view on the financial information it produces. It would be possible that fact checking agencies take a small sample of an organisation’s output and on that basis give traffic light ratings. This would be on factual accuracy not opinions expressed. As with a stock exchange listing, companies need a track record before listing, so any new website or feed would automatically be red.
It would certainly be helpful to me to have a red spot in the corner of some fascinating but misleading data fed into my social media by the Russian government, industry lobby groups or the wealthy manipulating public opinion for their own ends.
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