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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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dublin riots

European Commission: 'No evidence' that far-right used Irish language online during riots

An EU official was reported to have made the claim this week.

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION has played down a suggestion by an EU official earlier this week that misinformation was spread in Irish during the recent riots in Dublin.

An EU source was quoted in some media outlets this week as saying that members of the far-right sought to exploit a lack of non-English speaking content moderators at big tech firms during the unrest by posting content in Irish.

“In the case of the riots in Dublin we saw that those spreading hatred, illegal and harmful content ‘exploited’ the lack of Gaelic speaking moderators,” an unnamed Commission official was quoted as saying.

The Journal could not find any examples of Irish-language misinformation or other hateful content relating to the riots during the time they were taking place on Facebook, Instagram, X or the messaging app Telegram.

This morning, European Commission spokesperson on the digital economy Johannes Bahrke told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme today that there was no proof that such content was spread in Irish.

“There is no evidence as such that this actually happened,” he said.

“But this is something that is currently being looked into. The point is more that there is a vulnerability that you create as a platform if you are a person who speaks that language.

“It’s not only language knowledge; it’s about knowing the cultural context in order to be effective as a content moderator.”

The EU’s recently passed Digital Services Act (DSA) requires social media giants, among other things, to clamp down on hate speech and harmful content on their platforms.

Companies including Meta, X (formerly Twitter) and Google have previously come in for criticism for the large proportion of English-speaking moderators they employ compared to those who moderate non-English content.

A report by NGO Global Witness yesterday – based on data submitted to the Commission – outlined how the overwhelming majority of content moderators employed Meta, YouTube, TikTok and X are English-speaking.

It suggested that only Meta employed Irish-speaking content moderators, with 42 such employees, and that no Irish-speaking moderators are employed at YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn or X.

“As some of the wealthiest companies in the world, the failure of these leading social media corporations to properly invest in content moderation in Europe is deeply concerning,” the report said

“With important elections taking place in Europe over the next year, including for the European Parliament and in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Finland, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia, this resource gap can have serious implications for platforms’ ability to put in place adequate checks and balances against hate and disinformation.”

It also comes after Justice Minister Helen McEntee contacted social media firms about content relating to the rioting last week.

Gardaí investigating the riots have been examining social media posts as part of efforts to trace some of those involved

McEntee has said that she intends to meet with X over the spread of online disinformation in the wake of the riots, after saying the company did not engage with gardaí on the day when contacted to take down posts.

Gardaí investigating the riots have also been examining social media posts as part of efforts to trace some of those involved.