REFORM OF INFORMATION VERACITY

Why do we have to reform information veracity?

Is it possible to create a democratic society if the public are denied factual information? Most would say no, and they would be correct.

It naturally follows then, that as the UK does not deny its public access to factual information, that the UK is a healthy democracy. Not really.

It is possible to create a similar outcome to that of information prohibition whilst prohibiting nothing. This is achieved by completely drowning everything that is accurate with a constant tidal wave of far louder, more prolific half-facts and lies.

Because the general public are so busy and overworked most lack the available time to sift wheat from chaff, and inevitably large numbers will end up being deceived. Misinformation and disinformation to this degree heavily diminishes democracy, and this is where the UK is today: a gasping, convulsing democracy.

This regrettable state has come about not simply because so many parliamentarians have climbed into bed with industrial scale propagandists, but also because they personally know that lying to the public is a profitable tactic, and one that is 100% punishment free. Think about all of the outrageous lies that have been poured into the public domain by parliamentarians over the past 20 years. Now try to remember even one instance that ended with a significant punishment. The situation is so chronic now that it is almost impossible, these days, not to fall around laughing when the words ministerial code are spoken.

If we are serious about saving our democracy we must be prepared to face down anything that puts it at risk. This means we must ensure that the vast majority of information and data that makes it into the public domain is accurate and complete.

There are very few members of the public that are incapable of making sensible decisions when provided with real data and facts, but in the absence of facts all people are vulnerable to the computing principle of GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). All people can form poor opinions and make poor decisions when given garbage information, or are only provided with partial facts:

1 – Tony stole Diane’s car – Tony should be arrested.

2 – Tony took Diane’s car without asking permission – Tony should be arrested.

3 – Tony took Diane’s car without asking permission because something important came up – What was so important?

4 – Tony took Diane’s car without asking permission because someone was injured – Were they seriously injured?

5 – Tony took Diane’s car without asking permission because Diane’s brother needed to get to hospital – Tony did the right thing.

6 – Tony took Diane’s car without asking permission to get Diane’s brother to hospital because he was bleeding to death from a cut femoral artery – Tony is a hero.

If a parliamentarian or partisan media outlet wanted public opinion to rage against Tony the public would only hear the first version. No one would hear the last version.

The problem with behaviour of this kind is that publishing the first statement is technically not a lie. Providing half facts in this way is however no less effective than telling outright lies, and both Westminster and our media make extensive use of this technique in order to keep the public deceived in whatever way suits their purposes at any given moment in time.

How many people working UK hours, struggling to get by and looking after a family really have the time to analyse everything they hear or read to uncover grubby deceptions of this type? Too few, but the real point is that they shouldn’t have to and that democracy lacks the buoyancy to float on continual lies of this type. That is why the UK’s is in the danger zone.

It is important to understand that when Westminster states they want a free and independent press they actually want nothing of the kind. Most parliamentarians want a biased, monopolised press, so long as it is biased and monopolised in a way that benefits their party. They all want the press as it is now.

The only people who truly want an honest press are the public. It should therefore come as no surprise that any suggestion of regulating the media is always met with faux-outrage from parliamentarians who claim, rather predictably and on cue, we are putting our free and independent press at risk. Quite how we can put our free and independent press at risk when we do not have a free and independent press is a mystery.

The latest fashion coming out of Westminster is the so called fake news. It is difficult to know what Westminster means by the term fake news, but one thing we can be certain of is that they don’t mean non-factual news. This is quite obviously an accurate statement because if Westminster had any objection to non-factual news they would have closed down almost every media outlet in the UK long ago.

In essence, so long as miscellaneous news does not contradict the, 90% non-factual, news peddled by large media outlets it is not fake news. Or if you prefer: if miscellaneous news contradicts approved fake news then the miscellaneous news is fake.

What this tells us is, when it comes to finding a solution to all of this Westminster cannot be involved because Westminster are a very, very large part of the problem.

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Reform summary

Reform in this area is complex but necessary, and the establishment of a truly independent enforcement authority that Westminster has no influence over is vital. This authority will require far reaching powers that allow them to act against any party that is deemed to be willfully misinforming the public and therefore perverting democracy.

 

Detailed reform principles

A – The only safe enforcement authority for information veracity is one that is entirely independent from Westminster, one that only the public has power over and one that can sanction anyone including the executive. The H.O.C.D.E is therefore a natural choice.

B – The H.O.C.D.E should absorb the UK statistics authority, all current print media regulatory authorities and OFCOM.

C – All parliamentarians will be required to confirm the veracity of statements and information they intent to release into the public domain with the H.O.C.D.E in advance of any release.

D – All media organisations will be required to classify articles and broadcasts they put in the public domain into categories of a similar type* to those shown below.

I – Content is fully factual and complete.

II – Content is fully factual, but may be misleading due to an absence of vital mitigating information.

III – Content has not been verified as factual but is complete.

IV – Content has not been verified as factual, and may be misleading due to an absence of vital mitigating information.

V – Content is opinion only.

* these categories are provided as an example only as the H.O.C.D.E would take decisions of this kind.

E – Parliamentarians who place faulty information (non-factual or misleadingly incomplete) into the public domain shall be investigated and sanctioned by the H.O.C.D.E.

F – Media organisations that mis-classify content they place into the public domain, or violate other regulatory codes shall be investigated and sanctioned by the H.O.C.D.E.

G – The H.O.C.D.E shall have a range of sanctions available to it including custodial sentences, removal from office, revocation of licences, fines, public apologies and suspensions among others.

H – The H.O.C.D.E shall assume responsibility for the issue of media plurality, and make any changes necessary to maintain a healthy and balanced media environment that strengthens democracy.

It is vital that any reform in this area does not violate the right to claim things that are not true should media outlets choose to do so. The right to free speech must be upheld and should include the right to lie, but it is judicious that articles and broadcasts of this type are, at the very least, marked as being factually unverified. This courtesy however should not extend to parliamentarians. There must be a zero tolerance approach to parliamentarians lying to the public or refusing to answer questions the public have a right to ask.

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