Fianna Fáil’s Technology Spokesperson, James Lawless TD has said that the efforts being introduced by Facebook to fight the spread of political misinformation and fake news should be broadly welcomed but extended across other social media platforms and outlets.

Those working with the fiercely popular social network have said that these new controls are intended to ensure authenticity and full transparency among online advertisers, publishers and users alike.

Commenting on the move, Deputy Lawless said, “It is abundantly clear that the rate of people choosing to source their daily news online is rapidly increasing while social media platforms are playing a significant role in steering political debate and public discourse.

“At a time when we are beginning to gain a greater insight into the details regarding the improper use of Facebook advertisements in politics worldwide, it is crucial that controls such as the ones announced this weekend are implemented across platforms.

“As there are many other networks such as Twitter, Instagram and Google Ads exempt from any governance of political adverts, we cannot rely on the notion of self-regulation given the abuses and existing trust issues related to recent scandals.

“Facebook’s latest controls are a step towards eliminating fake news online but fuzzy lines of online political advertising in Ireland must be made clearer. Legislative action is still required to counteract any such effort to distort our national conversation.

“The rapid growth on fake news online is a matter I have been consistently highlighting. Earlier this year I introduced a Bill that if enacted would compel all online political advertising to precisely state the publisher, sponsor of the advert and what the target market is.

“Government here has consistently opposed my legislative proposals in this regard and for what appear to be for short sighted party political reasons. This is despite the fact that just this week the Parliamentary Legal Advisor confirmed that the Bill has the potential to make good law in this country.

“Facebook’s new controls, which mirror those proposed by my party, reject and dispel the Government’s claims that this type of approach to regulating political advertising was unworkable or somehow an undue burden to place upon the social networks.

“I look forward to meeting and discussing our Bill with officials from Facebook, the Data Protection Commissioner, academics and other stakeholders at our Oireachtas Committee on April 17th.

He concluded, “I urge the Government to follow suit and get on board to impose controls on online political advertising before they delay these vital protections for the public any further”.