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Government Group To Analyse Risk Of Outside Interference In Our Democracy


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98FM has learned the Taoiseach's department has set up a group to examine the risk to the democratic process posed by online ads.

It follows Google and Facebook's full and partial bans on advertising relating to the abortion referendum.

 

The Gardai, Defence Forces and Standards In Public Office are among the bodies involved in the Interdepartmental Group on the Security of the Electoral Process.

Several government departments, including the Departments of Justice and Communications, are also involved in examining what measures are needed to prevent outside interference in our elections and referendums.

It follows Facebook's banning of abortion campaign ads by foreign groups, and Google's total embargo on ads relating to the referendum.

Adverts are regulated by the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the consumer watchdog, the CCPC. However their remits do not cover political ads.

A spokesperson for the Communications Minister says Denis Naughten notes this week's announcement by Facebook and Goolge.

"(The Interdepartmental group) is examining risks and mitigation measures required to underpin the integrity of the electoral process and political advertising is relevant in this context... Its work is underway and already making rapid progress. The outcome of that process will inform next steps."

Tech Expert Jess Kelly welcomes the move but wonders whether if the panel has the knowledge and expertise to really get to the heart of the problem. 

"If you look at what Facebook has done in the last week; they've banned ads that are funded from abroad in relation to the 8th referendum from appearing on the platform. But that doesn't ensure that every single ad that appears now is 100% transparent or honest. Even if you go on Facebook today you'll notice anonymous ads are still appearing."

Jess claims the government will really have to ask itself whether or not it's happy to allow the tech giants to self regulate.

"For a long time people were of the opinion that you can't police the internet. But Google and Facebook have shown us this week that they can police it by just the flick of a switch... Do we want laws to try and compel them?"


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