- 20 Nov 23
The Institute for Strategic Dialogue has today released the first of three reports on disinformation and misinformation on social media in Ireland.
'Uisce faoi Thalamh' - a report on misinformation and disinformation in Ireland has been released today, citing that the influence of the far right in Ireland has grown since the Covid-19 pandemic.
X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter was named to be the worst offender for allowing misinformation to circulate freely on the platform, while Tiktok had the strongest content moderation.
Researchers from the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD) analysed 13 million posts from 1,640 accounts across 12 online platforms between January 2020 and April 2023.
The aim of the research was to analyse dis and mis information in Ireland. Disinformation is information shared with the specific purpose of deception and misinformation is information spread regardless of an attempt to mislead.
The study found that social media platforms were not successful enforcing their own community guidelines on hate speech and misinformation saying: "these findings highlight a clear and obvious enforcement gap on platforms that allows false, misleading or harmful content to survive, receive engagement and potentially encourage people to take action".
The report cited X as the platform where the most misinformation and disinformation occurred. Meta's Facebook and Instagram were mentioned, with the former said to still play a role "within the mis- and disinformation ecosystem, but some trends indicate that its popularity may be waning".
Instagram's activity was said to be small but alarming with 'a number of prominent accounts with outsized influence that use the platform to spread harmful claims about immigrants, LGBTQ+ communities and Holocaust denial".
Tiktok was cited as the most effective platform at meeting its own community guidelines with the Uisce faoi Thalamh report saying that 'actors within the Irish mis- and disinformation ecosystem are struggling to break through on TikTok. Most accounts found on TikTok were subsequently suspended."
However it was noted that when content did slip through the Tiktok guidelines, it sometimes amassed more than 1 million views, demonstrating the consequences of poor moderation.
Topics that were used as vehicles to spread misinformation were Covid-19, immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, islamophobia, antisemitism and increasingly, Climate Change.
The report described Covid-19 as a 'catalyst' for misinformation to spread saying: "Our research found that narratives around health information activated many actors within this mis- and disinformation ecosystem and produced false claims that provided others with a conspiratorial lens through which to view the world."
The ever increasing issue of climate change was said to be used as a tool "being exploited by far-right political parties in an effort to position themselves as the ‘true defenders’ of rural interests. Such discussions often frame climate change as part of a broader ‘culture war’, trivialising the issue, denying the scientific evidence behind it, and portraying it as a conspiracy to control the population".
Telegram, a messaging platform known for it's 'Secret Chats' where users can only access chats using an encryption key, and the encryption key is changed after every 100 uses, or periodically, has been cited as a 'significant hub' for organisation and discussion.
The report released today was the first in a series of three in The Uisce Faoi Thalamh reports to be released by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. The second is Platforms, which will examine how online platforms are used to produce, promote and contribute to the circulation of mis- and disinformation in Ireland.
The final report is Topics, which presents in-depth narrative analysis of the leading topics of discussions within this mis- and disinformation ecosystem.
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