If you’re tired of censorship and dystopian threats against civil liberties, subscribe to Reclaim The Net.
The Irish authorities’ reaction to the turmoil caused last week in the country by the stabbing attack carried out by a migrant, seems to be to come up with more regulation affecting speech.
The assault was particularly egregious and caused a great deal of outrage among citizens as well as riots, because it was perpetrated at a school, with young children among the victims.
Now, the government has things to say about protests, public order, and policing.
Ireland’s Media Minister Catherine Martin addressed the tense situation by announcing that members of the public are encouraged to report “any online hate speech” – to the police.
Not the – exact – direction those protesting after the school stabbing would have hoped for, namely, that the government clearly sees them, not its policies, as the problem to address at this particular time.
Martin was this week addressing political leaders to speak about a new Media Commission, an “online safety and media” regulator, to ramp up what the EU Digital Services Act already brings to the table regarding the suppression of unlawful (and lawful, too – if the political fancy takes them) speech on the internet.
Judging by Martin’s comments, the setting up of the Commission preceded the terrorist attack, but it was its aftermath that prompted immediate “engagement” between major social media, the Irish police, and the European Commission.
Critics are taking this to be an attempt to suppress anti-migrant sentiment, even speech perceived as “targeting” those who commit such grave acts of violence, like the incident in Ireland last week.
The timing of all this looks particularly tone-deaf, given the emphasis on “online safety” when people’s physical safety should logically be top of mind, and of political agendas.
Nevertheless, Martin is talking up the merits of the new Commission, saying that once it is “fully operational” in 2024, people will not only, so to speak, “have the right to be persecuted” – but also “be able to report to them (the Commission) directly if they think a platform has ignored or wrongly rejected their complaint.”
There’s a novel policing concept if the world ever saw one.
There’s also this remark from the minister: “And these reports can then be used by Coimisiún na Meán (the Commission) to decide where to focus their oversight and investigations and ultimately their enforcement action.”