MPS have called for new rules to protect UK elections and referendums from the influence of “dirty money and dodgy data misuse”.

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Electoral Campaigning Transparency states that UK elections are “wide open to abuse”.

The group says that electoral law has not been properly updated since 2001, when the internet had far less influence than it does today.

Labour MP and chairman of the APPG, Stephen Kinnock, said: “The outdated nature of UK election law has pitched us into a battle for the very soul of our democracy.

“Facebook and other digital giants now play a hugely significant role in our elections and referendums, but most of the current legislation was created before the phrase ‘social media’ even existed.

“It was in 2018 that the cracks in our democratic processes really started to show, when former chief executive of the Electoral Commission, Claire Bassett, told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee the current maximum per-offence fine of £20,000 was – for political actors – no more than ‘a cost of doing business’.

“Now, nearly four years on from the EU referendum, absolutely nothing has been done to protect our system from dodgy money and dirty data.”

The study calls for the setting up of an Office for Election Integrity aimed at “stopping rule-breakers slipping through the regulatory gaps”.

Moves need to be made to “close foreign donor loopholes”, MPs say, by ensuring all donations have to be UK-based.

The report also calls for the ability of campaigns to micro-target voters to be moderated. Furthermore, the group wants to give the Electoral Commission the ability to launch prosecutions and abolish the cap on fines for breaching electoral law.

Kinnock added: “The APPG’s 20 recommendations across the areas of transparency, monitoring and deterrence set out – for the first time in a generation - what changes need to be made to ensure the rules governing our elections are fit for the digital age.

“Now is the time to reform the rules, strengthen our institutions and restore trust in our democracy.”