A group which monitors the activities of far-right groups in Ireland has said that digital platforms have become the key mechanism for driving messages of hate, disinformation and manipulation in Ireland.
The Far Right Observatory (FRO) is a national civil society organisation which campaigns to “stop hate organising in our communities”.
In a submission to the all-party Oireachtas committee on integration which is examining the issues of integration and refugees, FRO has said the big social media companies – including Meta, Twitter, TikTok and YouTube – are failing to enforce their community standards, including ignoring reported harmful content.
It has said that YouTube in particular is not doing enough to prevent the monetisation of protests and FRO has documentary evidence of far-right entities using payment platforms to raise funds.
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It has also asserted that these groups have used algorithms to drive the content people see, and have amplified toxic and manipulative content.
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“A primary goal of the far-right is to destroy trust in mainstream democratic institutions. Politicians are ‘baited’ into reactive positions, driving a ‘chill effect’ in mainstream politics, normalising reactive policies and debate [and] leading to delegitimising human rights,” it has stated.
It has called for mainstream politicians to “avoid giving preference to one vulnerable group over another, such as people from Ukraine versus people seeing asylum”.
It said the strongest bulwark against far-right groups was strong community leadership and resilience.
It also said that a proven method to counter far-right groups was rapid deployment of groups who would counter their propaganda and demonstrations.
“The capacity to respond rapidly is critical and needs to be led by trusted community [leaders],” it has stated.
Another group, Le Chéile, has said the far-right has become increasingly organised in Ireland since 2018 in attempting to build narratives of reactions, homophobia and transphobia in Ireland.
The group was set up in 2020 and sees part of its role as debunking far-right myths and challenging anti-lockdown rhetoric.
In its submission to the committee, in advance of its meeting on Tuesday, it says: “[Far-right groups] try to insert themes, online and offline, into local communities. They exploit local concerns to further their own agenda. This has been evident in protests against direct provision centres for years in Oughterard, Rooskey and Killarney.
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“In 2020, the far-right used Covid-19 theories to grow their reach particularly through the use of social media.”
“The people who are attending the protests may not be far-right (some are not even racist) but are driven to take part out of fear about the epidemic of violence against women, or rage, and spite at the government’s failures to take any real action to deal with the housing and homelessness crisis or to properly resource our health service,” it says.
“The far-right are pushing the narrative that the housing crisis is made worse by asylum seekers taking up accommodation that would otherwise be available for those on the homeless list.
“It has created a space for far-right claims to ‘House the Irish First’ and ‘Look after our own’.
“This has added fuel to far-right claims and provided fodder to disinformation strategies.”