Irish people want social media moratorium ahead of elections

Poll shows Irish are the most concerned over misuse of data for political purposes

Almost nine in 10 Irish people said they want internet platforms to disclose the amount of money they receive from political parties and campaign groups.

Almost nine in 10 Irish people said they want internet platforms to disclose the amount of money they receive from political parties and campaign groups.

 

Irish people are concerned about the data they share online being used for political purposes with many wanting social networks to abide by a moratorium in the run-up to the European elections, new research shows.

A poll carried out on behalf of the European Commission shows people in the Republic are more worried about online data being used in targeted political messages than citizens in any other European Union member state.

Overall, 79 per cent of those surveyed expressed concerns about their data being misappropriated for political purposes, compared to an EU average of 67 per cent.

In addition, almost nine in 10 Irish people said they want internet platforms to disclose the amount of money they receive from political parties and campaign groups, as well as the level of support that they provide to politicians. This was the third highest response in the European Union.

Irish people also ranked strongly in wanting social media companies to make it clear which content is paid advertising and who is paying for it. Some 86 per cent expressed concern about this versus an EU average of 81 per cent.

‘Period of reflection’

Some 83 per cent of those surveyed said they are also in favour of the introduction of a moratorium, such as that which applies to Irish broadcasters, a day before votes are cast in an election. This was again considerably higher than in most other member states.

A spokesman for the European Commission in Dublin said the idea of introducing a so-called “period of reflection” for social media networks is something that European citizens have suggested through public consultations. Whether the commission will follow up on the proposal remains to be seen. At this stage it is unclear how any online moratorium might be enforced.

The Eurobarometer poll findings come in the same week that the European Commission said it was weighing up the introduction of heavy fines for political parties who misuse voters’ data.

At the Web Summit in Lisbon on Tuesday, Vera Jurova, the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said parties could face sanctions of up to 5 per cent of their annual budgets for breaching data protection rules in the run-up to the European elections, which are due to take place in May 2019.

This is just one of a number of steps the commission is considering as it looks to ensure next year’s elections are fair and transparent.