#KeepItReal campaign launched to address online disinformation


The #KeepItReal campaign was launched today by ARTICLE 19, an international NGO advocating for the establishment of an Irish Social Media Council.

Inspired by press councils, social media councils aim to provide an open, transparent and accountable forum to address content moderation issues including disinformation. The concept has been endorsed by UN Special Rapporteur David Kaye and Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center. The initiative in Ireland is the first of its kind.

To advance the debate about social media councils, the #KeepItReal campaign encourages young people across Ireland to debate issues surrounding disinformation and freedom of expression on social media.

#KeepItReal ambassadors

The current campaign is driven by young people, the so-called ‘digital natives’ who have grown up with digital media. DCU graduate Sorcha Murphy is one of 17 ambassadors supporting the #KeepItReal campaign.

Here, she explains her views on social media, disinformation, and accountability:

I think disinformation presents a big challenge for young people in Ireland, but I also believe that young people are better equipped to overcome it. More young people receive their news from social media, particularly platforms such as Twitter, which has its strengths and difficulties. Twitter has made great strides in flagging disinformation, particularly around Covid-19 and the US Presidential Election. It has also brought in a feature that stalls users from sharing an article which they have not read, but without preventing sharing altogether.

I think these mechanisms have increased young people’s skepticism around what appears to be true and what information has been fed to them – and this skepticism has been carried over to secondary news sources such as national broadcasters, newspapers and radio. Some believe that this has created a problem, but understanding that the reporting of any story can be swayed by stakeholders’ bias is an asset.

I’d like to encourage young people to be brave and to exercise their right to the freedom of expression. I would always recommend to be a firm believer in the opinions you are sharing and to consider why you believe them so much. Research your points if you are contributing to a larger debate, but don’t let the fear of being wrong hold you back – you can always apologise and correct yourself.

Debate is healthy and while trolls are out there they can be reported and blocked. If you see a conversation, a post or a thread that contradicts what you believe to be true, study articles on it (away from those linked in the thread) and if it still seems sketchy, consider it your public service to report it. Continue being an active member of society, with a small dose of skepticism.

The #KeepItReal campaign is calling for this change to take place. We’ve seen time and time again that social media lobbying plays a massive role in seeing change achieved. In my own experience, DCU student movements such as #ShanowenShakedown would never have moved as quickly as they did without hundreds of voices and thousands of tweets behind them.

The average person has more than eight social media accounts and this constant consumption can have a huge influence on a person’s thought process. More than that, 90% of 19-24 year olds have social media accounts which has unfortunately made a generation more frustrated with the world around them than most. This age demographic grew up alongside social media, and while most know how to amplify their voices, some are becoming increasingly aware of how necessary it is to educate others outside of this bubble. This is why platforms such as Twitter have made it so much easier to directly share Tweets to WhatsApp where the age demographic is slightly older.

The overall moderation process should be overseen by a separate body to the Government and large corporate entities, and should be the sole responsibility of a public forum. ARTICLE 19 supports the creation of a Social Media Council and this, in my opinion, would be one of its biggest tasks. A Social Media Council would operate on the basis of universal human rights and adhere to principles of transparency and accountability. 

Sorcha Murphy graduated from DCU in 2019 with a BA in Communication Studies. She received the Uaneen Award and a ‘Contribution to the Student Voice’ award for her work with the Mental Health Society and the ‘Shanowen Shakedown’ campaign.