Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD has called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney to introduce a programme of digital literacy for members of the Defence Forces to ensure that they are given the tools to protect themselves from disinformation assaults on social media.
Teachta Brady said:
“There is a robust social media policy within the Defence Forces, but training in digital literacy would enhance the ability of members to protect themselves from targeted disinformation campaigns.
“Over the last number of years, we have witnessed a deluge of disinformation campaigns conducted online. These campaigns have not only influenced what people read, and how they think, but in how they act.
“A number of EU countries have witnessed the dedicated online targeting of their defence forces with fake news and disinformation campaigns in recent years from right wing groups.
“When we examine the full impact of the recent assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters in the United States, it is a matter of grave concern to witness the number of serving and former member of the US Military who were actively involved.
“Early reports suggest that at least one in five who have been charged were in the military, a figure three times that which the military are represented in wider US society.
“I have absolute faith and belief in the integrity and professionalism of the Irish Defence Forces. But the weaponisation of social media represents a new battleground. It is one that the Minister has a responsibility to ensure that our Defence Forces are fully prepared to counter.
“Online threats have evolved from simply hacking networks, to the hacking of individuals’ minds. Right-wing extremist groups have engaged in systematic disinformation campaigns over the last number of years and, as reported by the Gardaí, are actively organising in Ireland.
“A number of Scandinavian countries have active education programmes in place to protect their military from such campaigns. Studies conducted by Harvard University have found that by educating individuals as to the nature and danger of disinformation campaigns online, it acts as an inoculation against the desired effect.
“I call on Minister Coveney to review this threat, and to introduce the appropriate measures to ensure that our Defence Forces are given the means required to protect themselves against online threats.”