Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Technology James Lawless TD has warned that the Government is failing to get to grips with the need for new transparency measures on social media in order to protect the democratic process.

Deputy Lawless made the comments after Facebook Vice President Joel Kaplan appeared before the Oireachtas Communications Committee and acknowledged the need for new measures to promote transparency around political advertising.

Deputy Lawless said, “The Government has been completely absent when it comes to the debate on social media transparency. Facebook have acknowledged that a much greater effort is need to promote transparency and tackle fake news. They have responded to the concerns that I have raised, and those of my Communications Committee colleagues, by implementing new measures to tackle fake news during the forthcoming referendum campaign.

“However it should not be left to social media companies to voluntarily take action to promote transparency and tackle fake news. New measures need to be put on a statutory basis to compel social media companies to be upfront in setting out who exactly is paying for political advertising and how they are conducting their online campaigns.

“The Irish Electoral Acts were written largely in 1992 in a time before the availability of internet, let alone social media. We have a situation where the internet remains the Wild West of electoral campaigning. The measures I have put forward in the Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017 will rectify this problem and will protect our electoral process.

“It should not fall exclusively to the opposition to have to tackle transparency issues on social media and deal with fake news. The Government should be proactive on this issue considering the threat that our democratic process faces.

“The new measures announced by Facebook are positive, but they obviously don’t apply to other social media outlets and general website advertising. This is why we need new transparency measures to be placed on a statutory footing,” concluded Deputy Lawless.