Social media platforms are being used to spread far-right hatred here and their Irish-based owners must be held accountable, a Dáil committee has heard.
Social media giants like Meta, Twitter, Tik Tok and YouTube are doing little to stop the algorithms driving content and “amplifying toxic and manipulative content that drives engagement through shares, likes and views,” according to Niamh McDonald of Far Right Observatory (FRO).
However, Fianna Fáil Senator Ned O’Sullivan told the committee he did not believe that the far right was active in Ireland and that fear of the far right was being “exaggerated” by the far left.
The Integration Committee conducts a series of meetings on integration and refugee issues.
Ms McDonald said the social media giants are “not enforcing their community standards, including ignoring reported harmful content” and that YouTube “in particular is not doing enough to prevent protest monetization”.
She said it was up to the government to act to force social media companies to comply.
“Two kilometers away we have the headquarters of all social media companies. I know we have tax revenues and stuff like that, but they have a community responsibility to protect our communities and abide by their rules,” she told the committee.
“And the government has a responsibility to put pressure on them to protect us and social media is not protecting us,” she said.
“Change the algorithms,” she added.
FRO researcher Mark Malone added that anti-immigration protest content is often “at the top of their feeds,” but “every[social media company]has failed to regularly remove content.”
“It’s not plausible that these companies don’t know what’s happening,” he said.
“We’re seeing very red flags of things that need to be addressed.”
Meanwhile, Co Kerry Senator Ned O’Sullivan raised eyebrows when he told the committee he didn’t believe far-right extremists were active in Ireland and that their apparent appearance on the scene here in recent months was caused by the political gain is used by the extreme left.
“A lot of the people who are protesting and have raised real concerns are not ultra-right, they are not Nazis, they are not fascists. They are people who are afraid, and very often they are afraid of the unknown. And if there has been a split, it’s in information,” he said.
“I don’t actually believe in this far right thing in Ireland and I think it’s been totally overblown, much of it I think for political reasons by people on the far left.
“I don’t see any extreme right in Ireland, they are not represented in Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann and they would have very little community support, I would say less than 1 per cent nationally, the extreme left would be a little stronger than that , they could be as high as 2 or 3 percent, and I think it suits one side to act against the other.”
However, Ms McDonald countered: “They exist. Let’s call them what they are: they’re haters, they’re dividers, they’re fascists.”