Young activists from all over Ireland team up with international organisation ARTICLE 19 to spearhead much needed debate on disinformation and freedom of expression
ARTICLE 19, an international organisation that works to defend and promote freedom of expression and access to information throughout the world, has today announced the official launch of #KeepItReal, a campaign on disinformation and freedom of expression in Ireland.
It has arguably never been as important as it is today, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the public to be aware of how online disinformation may be an obstacle to access accurate and reliable sources of information that may affect their rights.
In Ireland, research from FuJo – the Institute for Future Media and Journalism – and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland shows that so far social media companies have not done enough to counter the spread of disinformation on their platforms. In this climate, the campaign #KeepItReal aims at empowering young adults in Ireland to articulate their views on how to counter disinformation and protect their right to free speech in the framework of the ongoing debate on the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.
A group of young adults aged 18-25 years old from across the country will lead a discussion among their peers about how a pluralistic and tolerant society – one that listens to different perspectives, encourages dialogue and treats people equally – should respond to the issues of disinformation and regulation of social media. Well-known Irish artists, including Dublin based illustrator Fuchsia MacAree, are collaborating with ARTICLE 19 to represent through their artwork how disinformation is affecting young people’s right to freedom of expression in Ireland.
ARTICLE 19 is advocating for the establishment an Irish Social Media Council. This self-regulatory mechanism, inspired by the experience of press councils, would provide an open, transparent and accountable forum to address content moderation issues – such as disinformation – on social media platforms. This initiative in Ireland is the first of its kind run by ARTICLE 19.
Speaking on the launch of the campaign, Pierre François Docquir, Head of Media Freedom at ARTICLE 19 said:
“ARTICLE 19 has long been speaking on these issues with legal and policy experts but the debate on such important matters should really belong to the general public. This is the challenge that we are tackling with the group of ambassadors. I don’t think we could have picked a better place than Ireland to launch this type of work.
“Not only is Ireland the headquarters of social media companies in Europe, it is also in the middle of a vibrant and ground-breaking debate on platform regulation and online safety with the current drafting of an Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and the formation of the Media and Online Safety Commission.
“The challenges posed by COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of these debates, so this really is an interesting and fascinating time. Disinformation about COVID-19 remains a threat to public health and with the prospect of a vaccine on the horizon, it is vital we remain constantly vigilant where we source our news from.
“Our ambassadors are a part of a generation that are not only highly engaged with the digital evolution of the media, who have witnessed the rise of the Internet, but they are also very aware of both the rich opportunities for expression and risks for privacy that social media presents. I am already very impressed by their engagement and am looking forward to seeing the substantial contributions made by this campaign.”
ARTICLE 19 Ambassador Laura Bartley said:
“Although people my age are very active on social media and came of age with the rise of the internet, we still risk falling foul of disinformation, especially nowadays in relation to COVID-19 and vaccination. I want to do my part to make sure the young people of Ireland are equipped with the tools to make informed and safe decisions.
“During my studies, I was really interested in the impact of technology on human rights, democracy and violent extremism and knew I had something to offer to the discussion. My generation understands the long-lasting impact of the Online Safety and Media Regulations Bill and we will be the ones most affected by these discussions”.
Fellow Ambassador Ruairí Harrison added:
“As a passionate free speech advocate, I joined ARTICLE 19 as a youth ambassador in order to help highlight disinformation issues in Ireland and promote the broader democratic benefits of informed public debate on divisive issues. In the recent months during the pandemic, I have seen first-hand how rapidly disinformation can spread, and fragile Ireland is to the threats it poses. We can only act as citizens if we have access to reliable information.
“It is vital we make our voices heard and empower young people throughout Ireland to understand how to recognise when we are being misled. We really have the opportunity to make a real difference with this campaign, not only in Ireland, but throughout the world. I am excited to get started!”