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Sunday 8 December 2019

Spread of fake news poses 'high risk' to elections

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Stock photo
Fionnán Sheahan

Fionnán Sheahan

The spread of fake news poses a "high risk" to elections in this country, a new Government report has found.

Advertising paid for by foreign sources can also have a significant influence on campaigns, a think tank of officials says.

The Government report says the electoral process is at high risk from online platforms, including websites, social networks and search engines.

These risks includes a lack of transparency on advertising around the true source of sponsorship and the targeting of specific audiences.

It also lists no limit to the volume of advertising or the spend, the speed at which disinformation can be spread, online manipulation and a lack of editorial control.

The speed at which items can be accessed on the web means "online platforms present a particular risk in relation to disinformation and deliberate bias".

The first report of the Interdepartmental Group on Security and Ireland's Electoral Process and Disinformation says a low risk is posed to the electoral system by register of electors, the polling and counting of votes, traditional print and broadcasting.


But cyber security and funding carry a medium risk.

The high-level group was set up after Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless published a proposed law on the transparency of online advertising and social media.

The report says the rapid pace at which technologies and communications channels tend to evolve, and the international context of the issues involved means the policy will have to be kept under review and evolve.

The group recommends the establishment of an Electoral Commission, as promised in the Programme for Government.

On the internet front, it recommends the regulation of online political advertising as a priority and supporting work at an EU level in tackling online disinformation, including support for quality journalism across member states. It also says cyber security measures need to be strengthened around the electoral process, including getting the National Cyber Security Centre to advise political parties.

Irish Independent

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