FuJo Director Jane Suiter provides expert testimony on Electoral Reform Bill

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Dr Jane Suiter was one of three experts invited to speak to a parliamentary committee about Ireland’s proposed Electoral Reform Bill. The bill aims to
protect the integrity of elections.

Dr Jane Suiter (DCU), Dr Theresa Reidy (UCC) and Prof David Farrell (UCD) made presentations to the committee conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposed bill.

They raised concerns about a “lack of ambition” to address the fast-changing nature of the digital environment. As reported in The Irish Times, Dr Suiter said: “while the moves on political advertising are welcome, there’s quite a few holes or lacunas or ways that it could be
really substantially improved.”

Dr Suiter also highlighted the difference between political advertising regulations applied between social media and broadcasters and she referenced a submission made by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland which recommended such policies should be “media neutral”.

In addition to inconsistencies in the definition and application of political advertising, the bill fails to address problems surrounding disinformation.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, Dr Suiter was asked if she believed the Electoral Commission could play a role in addressing disinformation during elections. Referencing work undertaken as part of FuJo’s Provenance project, Dr Suiter noted a “very clear pattern” of right-wing disinformation and conspiracy theories in Irish social media groups.

Quote text: “The discourse that is starting in QAnon groups in the US is arriving in Ireland. We are beginning to see more of that appearing in Facebook groups and people start to believe it. So it is something that would be concerning for all members of the Oireachtas. This is where it might be good to start thinking about how we might tackle that.”

She added that the Electoral Commission should be tasked with tackling misinformation and disinformation around elections and referendums similar to Australian practices.

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