An Irish social media council along the lines of the press council should be set up to combat disinformation online.
The call comes from Article 19, a London-based organisation which advocates for press freedom and against disinformation.
Article 19 refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
It has announced a #KeepItReal campaign aimed at Irish people between the age of 18 and 25.
The campaign is hoping to influence the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill which will have its chief provision an online safety commissioner. It is currently going through the Oireachtas.
A group of young adults aged 18-25 years old from across the country have volunteered to lead a discussion among their peers about how society should respond to the issues of disinformation and fake news.
Article 19 ambassador Laura Bartley said the misinformation around the Covid-19 vaccine demonstrated the need for vigilance about what is being said on social media.
“If people are pre-emptively warned about attempts to sow doubt or spread misinformation, they don’t fall foul of it. We want to create conversations within families and in peer groups,” she said.
“We want to have a positive conversation around fairly heated pivotal societal issues at present.
“Although people my age are very active on social media and came of age with the rise of the internet, we still risk falling foul of disinformation, especially nowadays in relation to Covid-19 and vaccination
“During my studies, I was really interested in the impact of technology on human rights, democracy and violent extremism and knew I had something to offer to the discussion.”
The campaign includes work from the Dublin-based illustrator Fuchsia MacAree.
Article 19 believes an Irish social media council would provide a forum to address content moderation issues – such as disinformation – on social media platforms.
Its head of media freedom Pierre François Docquir said the debate about misinformation should “belong to the general public” first and foremost.
"I don't think we could have picked a better place than Ireland to launch this type of work," he said.
"Not only is Ireland the headquarters of social media companies in Europe, it is also in the middle of a vibrant and ground-breaking debate on platform regulation and online safety with the current drafting of an Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and the formation of the media and online safety commission.
“The challenges posed by Covid-19 have highlighted the importance of these debates, so this really is an interesting and fascinating time.
“Disinformation about Covid-19 remains a threat to public health and with the prospect of a vaccine on the horizon, it is vital we remain constantly vigilant where we source our news from.
“Our ambassadors are a part of a generation that are not only highly engaged with the digital evolution of the media, who have witnessed the rise of the internet, but they are also very aware of both the rich opportunities for expression and risks for privacy that social media presents.”