Russian orchestrated fake information campaigns need to be recognised as major threat – Lawless

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research and Development, James Lawless TD, has said that the first concrete evidence of targeting of Ireland by Russian operators intent on spreading misinformation, illustrates the need for the Government to wake up to this threat and introduce social media transparency legislation.

Deputy Lawless was commenting as an investigation by Digital Forensic Research Laboratory found that Ireland was one of several countries targeted by a Russian-based information operation. The misinformation included a forged email purporting to be from DUP leader Arlene Foster, declaring her support for the EU’s position on Brexit.

Deputy Lawless explained, „this would appear to be the first time we have concrete evidence of false information being spread by Russian operators in such a concerted manner but the likelihood is high that this will be repeated and may well have happened on other instances already. Of course we also saw during the 8th amendment referendum a high degree of foreign sourced, incendiary and false information propagated. I think it’s time that the Government took these threats and now real events seriously, instead of saying ‚it won’t happen here’. 

„While this false information campaign wasn’t particularly sophisticated, it’s clear that the Russian operators have taken a ‚throw enough mud and it might stick’ approach. According to the researchers, the campaign was designed to stoke racial, religious or political hatred, particularly in Northern Ireland.

„We are all aware of the substantial and increasing role of social media and online fora on our public discourse and in the political sphere. I recognise the strengths of social media, including citizen journalism and wider engagement but it is also a challenge for accuracy, integrity and the truth.

„Fianna Fáil’s Social Media Transparency Bill 2017 will make the deliberate use of multiple fake accounts for political purposes an offence. False flag accounts and mass orchestrated political campaigns which do not disclose their true purpose defraud us all and threaten our hard-won democracy”, he concluded.

Fianna Fáil

James Lawless TD

Spokesperson on Science, Technology, Research and Development

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