Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Technology James Lawless TD has warned that Irish democracy will suffer unless the Government takes decisive action to confront those seeking to undermine the democratic process through subversive online activities.
Deputy Lawless said, “There is a growing awareness of the huge threat facing the democratic process as a result of subversive online activity. State actors and criminal organisations are continuing in their efforts to disrupt the democratic process. They are manipulating digital media to deliver skewed messages with the ultimate aim of undermining public confidence in the democratic process.
“The Government needs to take decisive action to confront this threat. Last year I published the ‘Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017’. The Bill addresses transparency issues, targeting, sources of funds, anonymous adverts, and the sinister practices that have been exposed by the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“The Bill is already at Committee Stage and is ready to be progressed further. All it needs is support from Government to help it through the remaining legislative stages. If the Government have concerns about certain sections I am open to amendments, refinements, or removing sections if necessary to make the Bill robust. I make this offer in good faith in the spirit of securing the best possible protection for the electorate and our democratic process and to ensure this Bill addresses those without delay.
“I have put this to Minister Naughten directly at committee this afternoon. I made it clear that I am prepared to work with the Government to progress the Bill. I have written to all members of the Oireachtas Communications Committee to ask for their support in working with me to ensure this Bill proceeds as rapidly as possible.
“Fianna Fáil Party Leader Micheál Martin has also made it clear in the Dáil earlier today that we are willing to work constructively with the Government on this issue. We do need a range of responses, including a permanent electoral commission but this Bill does address many of the concerns and should be moved forward.
“Fianna Fáil will be coming forward with further proposals to help safeguard our democratic process against those who are engaged in subversive online activities. In the meantime this Bill should be enacted as a first step in dealing with the serious issues recently raised regarding the use of social media and digital communication.”