The influence of the far-right is increasing in Ireland while tech companies are failing to limit the spread of misleading and harmful content online, according to a new report.
Research carried out by the Institute of Strategic Discourse (ISD) found activity within the ‘mis- and disinformation ecosystem’ is growing, noting that the volume of misleading and harmful content has increased across all social media platforms, as has the level of engagement with such content.
The research examined over 13 million posts from 1,640 accounts across 12 online platforms over a three-year period.
X, formerly known as Twitter, was found to be the platform where the most activity concerning misinformation and disinformation occurred, with the report authors noting: “Twitter is the home of the highest number of accounts in the analysis and is used by virtually all of the most prominent actors in the Irish mis- and disinformation ecosystem which we studied.”
Facebook’s waning popularity overall was offered as an explanation as to why mis- and disinformation activity levels seem to have plateaued there, while such activity on Instagram was described as “small but concerning”.
The study period ran from 2020 to 2023, with misinformation and disinformation relating to the Covid-19 pandemic featuring heavily in the content examined by the researchers.
The report authors stated narratives around health information “activated many actors within this mis- and disinformation ecosystem and produced false claims that provided others with a conspiratorial lens through which to view the world”.
As the pandemic eased, the research showed a “swift drop” in discourse concerning Covid from the start of 2022, with focus shifting to the war in Ukraine.
By early 2023, immigration and LGBTQ+ issues had become the main topics of discussion for those involved in spreading misinformation and disinformation online, the research added.
Worryingly, the report highlighted that this type of content is having an impact beyond online spaces.
“False information and conspiracy theories shared online can be a successful means of mobilising people offline,” the report authors said.
“Anti-lockdown protests were fuelled by false claims about Covid-19 and vaccines, while anti-immigrations rhetoric not only led people to the streets, but resulted in cases of vigilante-style violence,” they added.
Stressing that online platforms are not adequately enforcing their own guidelines to tackle the spread of false and misleading information, the ISD said platforms must adopt a proactive investigative approach to better understand how bad actors use their services to further their agenda.
The report added that “algorithmic transparency” is also essential to tackle harmful mis- and disinformation online, as these systems often boost such content.
“The online mis- and disinformation ecosystem is in a constant state of flux with dynamics, strategies and discussions continuously changing and evolving.
“In order to properly understand and counter the harms that come from the proliferation of such falsehoods, consistent monitoring and analysis is required,” the report added.
Source : Breakingnews