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Ireland’s Justice Minister calls on Big Tech to curb anti-lockdown protests through censorship

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Big Tech needs to do more to fight misinformation shared online, according to Ireland’s minister for justice. Her remarks come a day after anti-lockdown protests in Dublin, the capital of Ireland.

Last Saturday, February 27, there was an anti-lockdown protest in Dublin. About 500 people were involved in the protest. According to Ireland’s Justice Minister Helen McEntee, the protests highlight the need for the government to do more to fight online “misinformation.”

In an interview on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week, on Sunday, McEntee said “we need to really look at the type of information and misinformation and disinformation that has been put out there.” She claimed that recent protests such as the one that happened on Saturday are organized online. She added that the gardaí (Ireland’s national police service) are “doing a huge amount of work to try and preempt these types of events.”

“There’s a number of things I think we need to look at – firstly, how do we work with the social media companies to make sure that information that is incorrect is taken down,” the minister for justice said during the interview.

“My own part is working with the gardaí to make sure that they have the legislation or that they have the means to infiltrate or to essentially identify this type of activity that’s happening online that is spreading hate and spreading division,” she added.

She further supported her position by saying online misinformation spreads fast and most of it is difficult to find.

“The problem is that a lot of this information is put up very quickly, a lot of this information is hidden, we need to try and find it,” McEntee said. She added that the national police service has the support of her department and others “to make sure that they can identify this information – where it’s coming from, who exactly it’s targeting.”

The justice minister insisted that social media companies need to do more to restrict the spread of misinformation.

“We need to make sure that those who are responsible for spreading this type of hate – and it is hate – disinformation, and encouraging this type of violence on our streets, putting people at risk, that they’re not allowed to do so and that these platforms don’t give them an opportunity to do that,” she said.

23 people were arrested during the protests and charged at a special sitting in the Dublin District court on the same day. McEntee confirmed that investigations were ongoing and already several fixed penalty notices have been issued to protesters.
The minister insisted that the protest was “an illegal gathering.”

“Anybody who thinks that there was no consequence to turning up to one of these kinds of events, that’s simply not the case. Anybody thinking of turning up to one in the future, there are consequences here,” she said.

“We’re all frustrated with Covid-19, I’m frustrated, you’re frustrated. However, we are not taking to the streets, and attacking members of An Garda Síochána who are doing everything to keep us safe.

“What happened yesterday was gardaí were intentionally targeted and hurt. This is not about frustration. This is something different,” McEntee concluded.

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