Echo Chambers, Debate and Standards.
Two weeks have passed since the great election that wasn’t and we are approaching our 9th week without a parliament.
We should all know and have read about the influence that social media and micro-targeting have had here and abroad. And we should also be aware of the fiction (or ‘alternative facts’) wrapped in creativity and political showmanship to promote a cause or an agenda.
I thought I would pen a brief note on the absence of political standards during this era of fake news and significant social influence within isolated bubbles of opinion.
It begs the question, why is political advertising not held to the same standards as commercial advertising? It used to be – even more so. Only after the 1997 election was it excluded in full from the ASA’s remit and code of practice.
There were a few reasons given to support the exclusion;
• The short time frames associated with elections not aligning with the speed of ASA investigations.
• The main political parties supporting the removal of accountability.
• The Human Rights Act posed challenges around political freedom of speech.
The ASA chairman at the time, Lord Rodgers, supported this final reasoning to no longer uphold a code of conduct to political parties stating:
“the free-flow of argument in the cut-and-thrust of open debate is the best antidote to political advertising that misleads or offends”
But does this free-flow of debate truly exist anymore in the social communities and echo chambers resonating online? In the absence of debate, should more be done to ensure the ads are factual, and parties accountable?
Another aspect of many a political campaign is the negative focus. Beyond the initial publication of an often lightweight manifesto, too much time is spent talking about the opposition and never enough about their own intentions: what, why, how and when?
Here’s hoping lessons are learnt and the political landscape moves forward again with the intention to do better.
Written by Chris Waldie, Senior Data Strategist at Now