Unregulated social media networks among greatest threats to western democracy – Madigan

-   Josepha Madigan TD

If left unregulated, social media networks could pose one of the biggest threats to western democracy according to Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD.

Minister Madigan made the remarks at the opening of the 28th Parnell Summer School at Avondale House, Co Wicklow. The theme of this year’s school is “Democracy Triumphant?” and discussion will focus on issues including representative democracy, legitimacy, political thought and activism, the role of women and international influences from a range of historical and contemporary perspectives.

Minister Madigan commented: “Ireland can be proud of the fact that the centre ground in our democracy continues to hold up so well. Extremist parties that appear to be thriving on other parts of the globe, even in Europe, are thankfully and rightfully relegated to the fringes of the Irish political landscape.”

“Another very real threat to western democracy comes in an altogether new form however.  Without proper regulation, social media networks have the potential to be used by foreign bodies to affect the outcomes of our national elections and referendums.

“There is a growing body of evidence that the Brexit vote and the last US presidential election were significantly influenced by foreign bodies through spend on social media.

“While I welcomed the decision by Google and Facebook to stop advertising related to the Eighth Amendment campaign in the weeks leading up to polling day, the integrity of our democracy should not be dependent on the decisions of these companies.

“I support the recent call by the Standards In Public Offices Commission to establish an electoral commission to deal with digital political campaigns financed from outside the State.

“I also commend the work of the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment. Its chair Deputy Hildegarde Naughton is right to say that the time for self-regulation by social media platforms is over.

“I will be asking my colleagues at Cabinet to prioritise the introduction of legislation and regulation in this area at both a national and EU level before the end of the year.”

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