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Rising Influence of Far-Right in Ireland Revealed in New Study on Online Platforms

A recent study conducted by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) highlights the growing influence of the far-right in Ireland, with social media platforms facing criticism for not effectively enforcing their community guidelines and terms of service. The research, spanning from 2020 to 2023 and analysing over 13 million posts across 12 platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Gettr, Gab, and Rumble, emphasises the potential real-world consequences of false information and conspiracy theories.

The study, titled “Uisce Faoi Thalamh: An Investigation into the Online Mis- and Disinformation Ecosystem in Ireland,” challenges remarks made by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, who suggested in May that the far-right is not on the rise in Ireland. The research reveals that online misinformation played a role in events like anti-lockdown protests during the pandemic and recent demonstrations at Cork City Library, fueled by hateful content against the LGBTQ+ community.

The report identifies “violent and threatening rhetoric” directed at politicians in discussions about COVID restrictions, the arrival of refugees and asylum seekers, and LGBTQ+ education. Notably, X (formerly Twitter) emerged as the platform with the most activity related to the spread of misinformation and disinformation, with over 1,100 relevant accounts posting 11.7 million times on nine topics analyzed by ISD.

While TikTok appears resistant to far-right influence, Telegram is highlighted as a key platform for organising such activities. Payment platforms, including Stripe, co-founded by Irish brothers Patrick and John Collison, were found to be used by 41 entities to raise funds for far-right activities, violating the terms of service of these platforms.

ISD, an independent think tank combating extremism and disinformation globally, recommends that platforms improve the enforcement of their guidelines and content moderation. The study also suggests examining why algorithms enable the spread of harmful content and calls for smaller platforms to learn from the moderation practices of larger ones. Telegram, identified as a significant platform for far-right organisations, is noted for lacking adequate safeguards against harmful content.

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