Tánaiste Leo Varadkar wrote to four of the world’s most powerful social media companies asking them to tackle the use of their platforms for the organisation of anti-lockdown protests, and what he termed misinformation.
Investigator Ken Foxe said that the Fine Gael leader sent letters to Facebook, Twitter, Google, and TikTok after protests on the streets of Dublin earlier in the year. While Mr Varadkar termed the protests “violent”, those opposed to the lockdown said that almost all those attending were peaceful demonstrators and that one man arrested for violent disorder had a record of criminal behaviour and had used the protest in an opportunistic way.
Mr Varadkar said the events were “clearly planned” using social media platforms and private messaging services and that the behaviour by a “selfish few” had undermined the sacrifices that millions of Irish people had made over the last year, according to Mr Foxe.
The Tánaiste was himself criticised, however, for seeming to breach Covid guidelines in a public picnic in Phoenix Park last year.
Foxe reported that Facebook responded to Mr Varadkar saying an internal investigation had taken place after the protest leading to the removal of 20 Facebook groups, 15 pages, and two Instagram profiles.
Google offered to run a discussion and workshop for the Tánaiste and his team on how they manage harmful content, he said.