TWO SNP MPs have demanded an MI5 summit to tackle disinformation and ‘hostile foreign activity’ online.

Stewart McDonald and Alyn Smith have urged Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove to set up a meeting between MPs and the security services to discuss the growing threat of foreign interference online.

Mr McDonald raised the issue with the Cabinet Secretary today in the House of Commons, saying that “hostile foreign actors are spending more money and following more sophisticated methods than ever before when it comes to sowing disinformation, including here in the UK”.

 

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The MP for Glasgow South continued: “The latest data from both Facebook and Twitter tells us that in particular Iran and Russia are giving the United Kingdom and politics in the UK a lot of attention.

“Will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster arrange a briefing for Members of Parliament and political parties, on appropriate terms, with the security services, so that we can all better understand the threat and ensure the integrity of our political discourse and democracy?”

Mr Gove responded: “He is absolutely right that all political parties should be made aware of some of the potential attempts to subvert our democracy.

“Therefore I look forward to working with my colleagues to make sure that the material that we can share is shared and that everyone is aware of what we need to do to defend our democracy.”

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Following the exchange, Mr McDonald and his colleague, the SNP MP for Stirling, wrote a joint letter to Mr Gove re-emphasising their calls.

They said: “You will no doubt be familiar with the recent Oxford Internet Institute report on industrialised disinformation which outline, in worrying terms, the growing threat this poses, particularly on social media.

"Hostile state disinformation campaigns are increasingly well funded, sophisticated and represent a threat to democracies that must be taken more seriously by government, parliament, and society at large.

“In recent months both Facebook and Twitter have published their own data about the number of accounts they have removed, in these cases for being fake accounts linked to states such as Russia and Iran.

“Although these data sets are relatively small in number, they do show a worrying trend in hostile foreign activity relating to political matters in Scotland and the UK, across all political divides. This is something that should worry us all.”

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They added: “We are of the view that parliamentarians and political parties need to better understand this threat, to ensure that we ourselves can provide the proper democratic oversight of the government's work to counter foreign disinformation in the UK, but also so that political parties can best equip themselves to ensure they can recognise dubious activity and take appropriate measures to educate candidates and party officials.”