Fake news and cyber-attacks pose risk to Irish elections, report warns

Fianna Fáil suggested the new report is a 'missed opportunity'

Fake news and cyber-attacks pose risk to Irish elections, report warns

Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

Fake news and the chance of cyber-attacks pose a risk to elections in Ireland, a new Government report has found.

The findings come from interdepartmental group established to look at the security of electoral processes here.

It has found that the overall risk to elections is 'relatively low' - but the "spread of disinformation online and the risk of cyber-attacks" are more significant risks.

It cites the 2016 US presidential election as one that has led to significant concerns over both disinformation and interference.

The group recommends speeding up the establishment of a permanent Electoral Commission "with a complete oversight role" and making online political advertising more transparent.

It also says laws around the funding of election and referendum campaigns should be reformed.

The report adds: "Given the complexity of the issues, the rapid pace at which technologies and communications channels tend to evolve, and the international context of these issues, policy will have to be kept under review and evolve as appropriate."

Fianna Fáil suggested the report is a missed opportunity.

The party's technology spokesperson James Lawless observed: "They don’t seem to take into account the seriousness of the threat posed by external interference in our democratic process.

"It feeds into the general lack of urgency that the Government has shown towards dealing with fake news. For example, we were promised a new Electoral Commission in 2011 which still has not been delivered."

The publication of the report comes in the wake of the Eighth Amendment referendum earlier this year, which provoked discussions around issues such as online advertising.