The Henry Jackson Society examines the implications of disinformation in the House of Lords

It was an honour to speak at The House of Lords yesterday with Lord Gilbert and Chris Pleasance on the threat that disinformation poses to the UK. 


The threat of disinformation remains large in the UK, particularly following Russia’s decision to invest billions into spreading disinformation as revealed by Pleasance. Moreover, we already know that Russia has been waging disinformation warfare in the UK for a while now – with its regime attempting to spread misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines as well as vast amounts of inaccurate information regarding the events taking place in Ukraine. 


In light of the latest draft of the Online Safety Bill, the panellists discussed whether the Bill needs to direct the government to do more to effectively combat misinformation. Ivanov argued that various measures – ranging from content warnings to forming expert bodies to combat disinformation – are necessary. Pleasance suggested that rather than reacting, we must pre-empt disinformation, akin to the way the US did in the run-up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.  


In the end, the panel agreed that even the definition of disinformation remains unclear – which is partly a consequence of disinformation warfare, as propagandists constantly try to convince people that there are such things as “alternative facts”. Ultimately, there was an agreement among the panellists and the audience that disinformation warfare is a real threat to the UK, and that Russia is likely to increase its efforts to spread lies across our nation. Whilst somewhat differing in terms of the best way forward, the speakers and audience agreed that further and effective action is necessary for the sake of our security.


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