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New guide for election candidates facing online abuse

The media regulator Coimisiún na Meán has published an information pack for election candidates in the upcoming Local and European elections.

Its aim is to offer guidance for candidates on what to do when they are faced with harmful and/or illegal content online.

“The main message for Coimisiún na Meán to election candidates is to report content they think is illegal or a breach of a platform’s own rules directly to the platform,” the commission said.

“Following that, if candidates believe that the platforms have not actioned illegal content once reported, they can make a complaint to Coimisiún na Meán via the contact centre. Any immediate threats or risks to life should be reported straight to the gardaí,” Coimisiún na Meán said.

On the issue of misinformation or disinformation, the guide notes that while some social media platforms allow users to report such content, misinformation or disinformation is not necessarily illegal.

“Neither Coimisiún na Meán nor any other public body has the authority to require content to be taken down, solely on the basis that the content represents misinformation or disinformation,” the guide states.

The pack includes further information on the rights of users under the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the reporting channels for various platforms.

The information pack will be shared with political parties and is also available on the Coimisiún na Meán website.

“Coimisiún na Meán recognises that during election times, candidates are at an increased risk of suffering online harm,” the commission said.

“Under the DSA, very large online platforms and search engines have a duty to assess risks that their services may pose. This includes a risk to civic discourse and the electoral process,” it added.

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