Warning of 'edited footage' of far-right violence at Dublin lockdown protest

Minister says conspiracy theories are being used "to inspire hatred and anger"
Warning of 'edited footage' of far-right violence at Dublin lockdown protest

Members of An Garda Siochana were forced to draw batons as an angry anti-lockdown protest tried to break through barriers to a meeting spot at St Stephen's Green, Dublin. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, has expressed concern about edited footage that was shared on social media after the violent protest in the city which had been manipulated to "sow discord."

Ms Chu said it was alarming the level of misinformation, disinformation and “downright lies” that were being shared on social media platforms.

The Mayor said she had spoken with the senior policy team at Twitter recently following her own abuse on the forum and had been told of a stream of measures that are going to be rolled out. 

Ms Chu called for a system to be introduced in Ireland similar to that operated by Twitter during the US presidential elections when tweets were labelled as “may not be true”.

The accounts of certain cohorts should also be more closely examined and reported, she said.

Ms Chu had tried to get a meeting with Facebook and she was hoping that the events of last weekend would ensure that a meeting would now go ahead particularly because of the disinformation that was spread prior to the protest. The degree to which lies were being spread would have to be examined, she told the Today with Claire Byrne show on RTÉ Radio. 

Later on the same programme Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the organisers of such protests needed to “see sense” and call off any future events. There were elements that were trying to “stir up” trouble. Everybody needed to do their job and the Government needed to get its act together and send a clear message, he said.

Earlier, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney hit out at the "thuggery" seen in Dublin.

Mr Coveney said conspiracy theories are being used "to inspire hatred and anger", which drove the "thuggery that we saw over the weekend", by undermining the political system. 

"Politicians make mistakes, politicians don't always get things right. I'm talking about mainstream politicians that are elected," he said. 

"But we are trying to tell people the truth, and we're trying to protect people and save lives through this pandemic and we're working night and day to do that. And of course, we're open for criticism and questioning all the time."

In relation to the violence that erupted on the streets, Mr Coveney said: "We've got to call that out for what it is and hope that most right-thinking people reject it out of hand. Because these are people who are trying to recruit sometimes vulnerable people but people who are struggling with the pandemic because their businesses aren't open. They may be stressed — many people are. This has been a very very difficult year for so many people. 

"But we've got to close this out now in the next few months. And we can do that."

Mr Coveney told Newstalk Breakfast that digital media companies needed to "do more in a number of areas" including allowing their platforms to be used to promote conspiracy theories or "threats to destabilise the State".

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