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  • Senator Sharon Keogan

Senator Sharon Keogan — Government's 'Ministry of Truth' is Dangerous

I wish to speak about the group that the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media will be establishing to fight misinformation and disinformation. This group will aim to create measures to support innovation and fact-checking. While the aims of the groups sound noble, this is not something I support. The State has a vested interest in suppressing information about its own failures. Public trust in institutions has declined for good reason. The social contract is broken. Due to the failures of this Government, we are likely to face a lot of social problems.

Any attempt to target misinformation and disinformation is likely to favour establishment voices at the expense of alternative ones, whether they be on the right or the left. In the Anglosphere, the terms "misinformation" and "disinformation" are used inconsistently across a variety of contexts but they are generally not applied to establishment media. Let us look at an example. RTÉ said there were 50,000 attendees at last week's demonstration. Does this photo look like 50,000 people? RTÉ previously said that a similar sized protest had hundreds of attendees. Will the fact checkers check this? Of course not. That is part of the problem.

RTÉ's big personalities, many of whom are paid six-figure salaries, frequently allow politicians to present inaccurate narratives and avoid difficult questions. Will this be considered misinformation or disinformation? Will political parties be targeted for putting out false information about their achievements or their opponents? I would advise you to think very carefully about the precedent you establish. At the moment, our libel laws are being abused by politicians to silence journalists. Will the committee empower tech companies to decide what misinformation and and disinformation? They have an interest in suppressing information about their own corruption and malpractice. Targeting the far right and commentators online while at the same time failing to target the problems in establishment media and political parties will only erode public confidence. The real question for the Government and the media should be how we can rebuild trust. If you spend all your time trying to avoid criticism no one will trust you and your efforts will be in vain. I call on the Deputy Leader to allow us to have the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media in here before she establishes the committee to give us the guidelines she is hoping to set out.

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