Over 1,100 experts have responded to a COVID-19 survey by POST's Knowledge Exchange Unit. Through the survey, experts shared their concerns about COVID-19 and COVID-impacted areas in the immediate and longer term future. Researchers have also shared what further data or information they would like to see the Government release to understand the decisions that underpin its approach. This first report outlines the survey methodology. Detailed reports with concerns on specific areas such as trade, education, and public health will be published in the coming days.
Extremism is possible in any ideology, including (but not limited to) politics and religion. Extremism can affect mental well-being, amplify hostility and threaten democratic debate. The global reach of the internet poses social and technological challenges for safeguarding citizens from extremism online. When the Commission for Countering Extremism surveyed over 2500 members of the public in 2019, 56% agreed that a lot more should be done to counter extremism online. This POSTnote outlines how the online environment can be used for extremist purposes, how exposure to online extremism can influence people and potential strategies to counter extremist content online.
According to a recent study from Ofcom, 46% of respondents have encountered false or misleading coronavirus information since the lockdown. Most cases of misinformation are found on social media. Misinformation can lead to public mistrust, endangerment of public health, as well as hate crime and exploitation. Different approaches are being implemented to fight misinformation including content moderation, myth-busting, and a focus on education.
Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) measure brain activity and can be used to control digital devices. The focus of BCI development has been on using the technology to allow patients to control assistive equipment such as wheelchairs or prostheses. Beyond medicine they are under development for applications in entertainment, marketing and defence. This POSTnote looks at the underpinning technology, its applications and the associated ethical and regulatory challenges.
Non-custodial sentences are those that do not include imprisonment, such as discharges, fines and community orders. When sentencing an individual, criminal courts judge whether an offence is serious enough to impose a custodial sentence (either immediate imprisonment or a suspended sentence) or a non-custodial sentence. Criminal justice is devolved, so this POSTnote focuses on non-custodial sentences in England and Wales. In the year ending June 2019, 90% of sentences in England and Wales were non-custodial. This POSTnote presents sentencing trends and describes the non-custodial sentences currently used for adults and young people in England and Wales. It also reviews evidence on the effectiveness of non-custodial sentences and discusses policy considerations.
Drones (also known as unmanned aircraft) are flying systems that do not carry a pilot. As the technology has become cheaper and more sophisticated, the use of drones for recreational and commercial purposes has grown, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reporting a significant increase in the number of permissions obtained for operating commercial drones in the UK. Despite their potential to reduce costs, improve efficiency and provide new services, drones may be misused accidentally or for malicious purposes. For example, reports of drone sightings at Gatwick Airport in December 2018 grounded around 1,000 flights for almost 36 hours, affecting more than 140,000 passengers.
In 2018, the Government introduced new limits on where drones can be flown and new registration and education requirements for drone operators and pilots. In January 2020, the new Government introduced an Air Traffic Management and Unmanned Aircraft Bill to Parliament that included new police powers for enforcing aviation laws (such as the power to issue a fixed penalty notice for certain drone offences). This POSTnote looks at civilian drones and their applications, focusing on potential misuse and possible responses.
This document builds on POST's previous publication, Topics of Interest 2018 (POSTbrief 27). The subjects are listed under under six category headings based on the drivers of change identified in POSTnote 500: demographic change and healthcare; social and cultural trends; geopolitical and governance challenges; environmental pressures and climate change; resource security and sustainability; and technological advance.
Witness testimony is a written or oral statement given by an individual who has experienced an incident. It is collected during criminal investigations (including through investigative interviews, facial composites and identity parades). However, inaccurate witness testimony (such as the incorrect identification of a suspect) can lead to innocent people being wrongfully convicted. Wrongfully accused or convicted individuals are at risk of discrimination, relationship damage and poor mental health. Wrongful convictions are also costly, with a miscarriage of justice costing up to £1 million in compensation, and cause reputational damage to the police and legal system. Furthermore, the real perpetrators are not caught and may continue to harm society by committing further crime.
Violent crime includes a range of offences, from assault to murder. It can be any action that intentionally inflicts (or threatens) physical or psychological damage. Over the past decade overall crime has decreased, and violent crime is down by 69% since 1995. However, homicides and crimes involving knives or sharp instruments have risen since 2014. This has been reflected in an increase in hospital admissions for assaults with knives or sharp instruments. Violent offences are disproportionately concentrated in metropolitan areas, such as London and cities in West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and the West Midlands. This POSTnote outlines types and prevalence of violent crime. It describes risk factors associated with involvement as a victim or perpetrator of violent crime. It then presents evidence on the effectiveness of early interventions to counter these risk factors and prevent violent crime.
Weaknesses in the cyber security of internet-connected consumer devices can undermine the privacy and safety of individual users and can be used for large-scale cyber-attacks. This briefing looks at the cyber threats associated with consumer devices and their causes, as well as initiatives to improve device security, and the related challenges.
Stalking and harassment both involve any repeated behaviour that would cause alarm, distress or fear of violence in a victim. Common stalking or harassment behaviours include unwanted contact online or in person, following a victim, and interfering with property. Stalking is characterised by a perpetrator’s fixation or obsession and can have long-term psychological and social effects on a victim. Stalking also has the potential to escalate to other crimes, such as sexual assault or murder. This POSTnote describes stalking and harassment before presenting evidence on the effectiveness of approaches to identifying, preventing and prosecuting these crimes.
Distributed ledger technology (DLT) is a type of digital records system that allows multiple identical copies of a ledger to be stored on different computers on a network and updated by multiple different users. This POSTbrief provides a technical overview of the different types of DLT and how they work. It discusses some of the main applications of DLT and highlights the benefits and challenges of the technology.
Biometric technologies identify individuals based on their distinguishing physical and behavioural attributes, such as fingerprints, face, and voice. Unlike passwords or traditional identity documents, biometric attributes are inherently linked to a person and cannot usually be lost or forgotten, potentially providing greater security and convenience. This briefing focuses on how these technologies work, their applications, and the policy challenges raised by their use.
A POSTnote that discusses the age of criminal responsibility and explores issues arising from international legal standards, the scientific research on children's mental and moral development, and alternative approaches to dealing with children in conflict with the law.
This list sets out the topic areas identified of possible parliamentary interest under the 9 different category headings (Agriculture, Fisheries, Food and Forestry, Crime, Defence, Education and Skills, Energy, Environment, Health, ICT and Robotics and Transport and Infrastructure).