Public consultation on the principles of
the Counter Disinformation Group
closes on October 20rd.

In 2020, the Government established the Future of Media Commission. The Government released their report in 2022, which included various recommendations, including the establishment of a ‘National Counter Disinformation Strategy Working Group.’ The group has since been established, and the principles of the group are now open for a written public consultation.

Five draft principles have been laid out for the proposed group; they can be read here.

Free Speech Ireland noted the following regarding the proposed principles:

  • Principle: ‘Counter Disinformation and protect freedom of speech using a rights based approach’

    While protecting freedom of speech is a principle, countering disinformation is not.

    What constitutes freedom of speech is definite because it must encompass all opinions if it is to be. Because it is definite, its protection can be assumed to be a fundamental good and hence a principle.

    By contrast, disinformation is indefinite: while it might have a clear definition as ‘false or misleading content that is spread with an intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain and which may cause public harm,’ it is often disputed whether content is false or misleading, let alone what sort of intention it was spread with. Because it is not definite, countering it cannot be assumed to be a fundamental good and hence a principle. That said, countering disinformation is, of course, a good aspiration.

  • Principle: ‘Counter Disinformation through increased cooperation, collaboration and coordination’

    Within this principle, the goal of “preventing digital platforms’ recommender algorithms from amplifying hate” is established. The term ‘hate’ is left undefined. Furthermore, the matter of engineering recommender algorithms to exclude certain types of content has great potential for censorship.

Overall, the open-ended remit of this group is concerning from a civil rights perspective. While the group does acknowledge that the cause of countering disinformation can be hijacked to implement censorship, considerations need to be made to account for the potential abuse of authority.