On 20 Monday the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) released a research project that examines the online spaces where mis/disinformation and conspiracy theories proliferate in Ireland.
The research project, titled Uisce Faoi Thalamh: An Investigation into the Online Mis- and Disinformation Ecosystem in Ireland, analysed over 13 million posts from over 1,600 accounts published across 12 online platforms between January 2020 and April 2023.
ISD is an independent think tank based in London which focuses on researching online hate, extremism and disinformation. This research project, funded by the European and Media Information Fund, was authored by its researchers Aoife Gallagher, Ciarán O’Connor (both based in Ireland) and Francesca Visser.
The study comprises three reports:
- The first is a Summary Report which includes the project’s key findings, recommendations and methodology.
- The second is a Platforms Report which contains a platform-by-platform analysis of the activity across Twitter (X), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Telegram, TikTok, Gab, Gettr and alternative video platforms (Rumble, Odysee, BitChute, DLive). An analysis of online donation and fundraising mechanisms being used by actors in the ecosystem is also included in the second report.
- The third is a Topics Report which focuses on topics and provides a detailed analysis of how certain subjects are discussed within the ecosystem. These topics are health, immigration, LGBTQ+ issues, conspiracies, climate change, the invasion of Ukraine, ethnonationalism, Irish politics and 5G.
The authors believe this is one of the most comprehensive pieces of research done to date that explores this phenomenon in Ireland. Through data-led analysis, it shows how this online ecosystem has exploded since 2020 and how online communities that were dominated by discussions about COVID-19 during the pandemic have now become conduits for hateful falsehoods related to other topics. The study also explores the fast-changing nature of the online ecosystem and highlights enforcement gaps on social media platforms that allows false, misleading or harmful content to survive.