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Gib MEP highlights dangers of foreign interference in elections

Gibraltar MEP Caroline Voaden spoke out in the European Parliament this week on the dangers of foreign interference in elections.

In a speech to the European Parliament, Ms Voaden implored Boris Johnson to publish a report by the British parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee into Russian interference in British elections.

“It is shocking that Boris Johnson is still refusing to publish a parliamentary report into Russian interference into our democracy. This begs the question: what does he have to hide?,” she said.

“He knows what is in that report, we know what is in that report - but he refuses to release it because the truth stands in the way of his personal ambition. Boris Johnson - release the Russia report, now.”

Ms Voaden said that democracy is under threat from foreign interference like never before: “In the past few years we have seen a sea change in the way politics, and elections, are conducted,” she said.

“We may still deliver leaflets, knock on doors and transmit party political broadcasts on TV. But increasingly voters are getting their information online - through social media platforms and advertising that takes advantage of ever more effective algorithms to target them individually from thousands of miles away.”

“It’s fair to say that citizens all over Europe are at the mercy of anyone with a sinister agenda and a computer.”

Ms Voaden said that foreign interference in democratic processes represents a danger to elections across the European Union, made worse by the irresponsible actions of social media companies.

“The stubborn refusal of companies such as Facebook to take clear and decisive action to police their platforms, opens a door into our elections that any foreign actor can waltz through unimpeded,” she said.

Caroline Voaden was voted into the European Parliament in the summer as a Liberal Democrat MEP representing the South West region of the UK and Gibraltar.

She said that dirty tricks are playing a part in the run-up to the UK’s December 12 General Election.

“The Conservative Party’s decision to turn one of their social media accounts into a fake fact-checking service is an international disgrace,” she said.

“It has damaged Britain’s reputation in Europe and beyond. Boris Johnson’s attempt to close down our Parliament shows he simply cannot be trusted with our liberal democracy and traditional values.”

“Those who detest the idea of democracy and view the messy process of elections as a charade to shore up their position - Vladimir Putin chief amongst them - pour millions in economic and human resources into targeting European voters.”

“Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Nigel Farage will be the benefactors of a hard Brexit that divides the West.”

“Voters should think twice before giving a majority to Boris Johnson, a man determined to take us out of the EU, who has chosen to align with right-wing, authoritarian, nationalist forces who are opposed to the liberal international rule-based order.”

In October, the European Parliament adopted a report calling for a range of measures to tackle electoral interference and disinformation in national and European democratic processes.

The report highlighted the opaque funding of far-right parties across Europe and allegations surrounding the funding of the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 EU referendum.

Nigel Farage and Brexit Party MEPs attempted to vote it down, while Ms Voaden is calling for the principles laid out in the report to be made legally binding.