Committee on Standards in Public Life

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is an advisory body, that “advises the Prime Minister on ethical standards across the whole of public life in England. It monitors and reports on issues relating to the standards of conduct of all public office holders.”[1]

Seven principles of public life

The Committee identfies seven principles of public life, or “Nolan principles”, by which it judges how well standards are being upheld.[2]

These are:

  1. Selflessness
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

Intimidation in Public Life Report

Their 17th report looks at intimidation in public life:

In recent years, the intimidation experienced by Parliamentary candidates, and others in public life, has become a threat to the diversity, integrity, and vibrancy of representative democracy in the UK.[3]

Its findings have been interpreted as presenting support for the Digital Charter.

A signifcant proportion of candidates at the 2017 general election experienced harassment, abuse and intimidation. There has been persistent, vile and shocking abuse, threatened violence including sexual violence, and damage to property. It is clear that much of this behaviour is targeted at certain groups. The widespread use of social media platforms is the most signifcant factor driving the behaviour we are seeing.[4]

We propose legislative changes that the government should bring forward on social media companies’ liability for illegal content online, and an electoral ofence of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners. Political parties must also put in place measures for more efective joint working to combat intimidation in advance of the next general election. In the long term, prevention will be more efective and important than any individual sanction. Those in public life must adopt a more healthy public discourse and must stand together to oppose behaviour which threatens the integrity of public life.[5]

It recommends that “Government should bring forward legislation to shift the liability of illegal content online towards social media companies” at Brexit[6] in order to evade liability protections in the E-Commerce Directive.

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