Sinn Féin must stop burying its head in the sand on destructive online party trolls

20th December 2020 - Emer Higgins, TD

The Sinn Féin Leader should stop burying her head in the sand and take action against Sinn Féin supporters who post vile abuse and threats online about their political opponents, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Dublin Mid West TD Emer Higgins said she was alarmed by the activities and comments of a Sinn Féin supporter group which came to light over the weekend.

Deputy Higgins, Fine Gael’s Spokesperson on Social Media & Fintech said, “The social media activities of some Sinn Féin representatives and supporters have been a cause for concern for quite a while, yet neither the party or its leader ever seem to condemn or discipline individuals responsible for the most chilling displays of online abuse.

“We learned that Deputies Martin Kenny and Violet Anne Wynne only left the group this week after its appalling content was raised by the media. Sinn Féin councillors are also listed as members of the group.

“Yet these public representatives have failed to condemn these sinister social media groups connected to their party.

“Yesterday we had Sinn Féin attempting to disassociate itself from the secret group, saying that one party member was asked to leave the site when it was brought to their attention over a year ago because it was a breach of social media guidelines. Did they report the group formally and request Facebook to remove it?

“Last year Deputy Martin Kenny said: ‘Sinn Féin will work to make the internet safer and to regulate those companies who must take responsibility for the actions of their users’ – but actions speak louder than words.

“It is cynical of Sinn Féin to blame Facebook and social media companies for this behaviour, a page with posts about shooting and cutting the throats of politicians.

“It is not credible for Sinn Féin to wash their hands of this and say it has nothing to do with a Facebook group with their name, with 16,000 party supporters, which included public representatives.

“They are shirking their responsibility as a ‘democratic’ and accountable party and they should be stepping up to tell the full story.

“Sein Féin has a strong online presence and the public deserve to know what role this secret Facebook group plays in destructive social media discourse and online campaigning.

“A group of this size would have had huge potential to shape online discourse. Sinn Féin seem to be accusing Facebook of allowing fraudulent impersonation and distancing themselves from 16,000 of their voters.

“The whole debacle shows how important it is for social media companies to verify groups with political affiliations, but, even more importantly to ensure that hate speech and the spreading of it is tackled through better artificial intelligence solutions.

“It’s time the Sinn Féin Leader stopped burying her head in the sand and takes any members who engaging in online trolling to task. I would also call on Deputies McDonald, Kenny and Wynne to each make statements on the matter”, Deputy Higgins concluded.

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