With a litany of social media firms parked in the Dublin Docklands, Ireland has found itself close to the jugular when it comes to the regulation of Big Tech.
Notoriously, the state has a rather comfy relationship with tech platforms, from tax affairs to providing ex-politicos and civil servants with jobs once they leave public service. This is on top of Facebook’s brazen admittance of assisting the government cause during the 2018 Abortion Referendum.
Alongside this symbiosis is the tendency of Ireland’s NGO left to garner rather privileged access to the social media giants, almost always prioritising political censorship.
It helps having tech titans within earshot of your NGO headquarters and Ireland will play host to much intrigue when it comes to these firms turning the algorithmic screws on the populist right.
For these reasons and more our interest was aroused by an article in the Irish Examiner confirming ongoing liaisons between the antifascist blog and probable slush fund the Far Right Observatory and Facebook honchos in Dublin.
Reporting on a tête-à-tête between Facebook top brass and antifascist activists on the matter of deplatforming hate speech and anti-lockdown activism, such a rendezvous indicates an increasingly proximate relationship between the tech company and left leaning outfits.
Demanding more onerous measures to remove alleged extremist content and misinformation, the meeting was in essence members of civic society reading the riot act to Facebook reps on the company’s supposed leniency to dissenting voices. So in essence nothing new under the sun except for how close to Facebook leadership the groups got.
Represented by the activist group Uplift and the semi-anonymous collective the Far Right Observatory (FRO), the meeting occurred largely sub rosa beyond coordinated press leaks.
Not the first dalliance between Facebook and leftist activists, Zuckerberg himself met with left activists in 2019, even receiving a dossier on the manner in which Facebook platformed those objecting to Direct Provision centres in their localities.
Not placated by their personal audience with Zuck and his crew, the NGO left ultimately envisions a situation where Facebook outsources their deplatforming decision making process to a self selected cadre of left leaning NGOs. A situation which would drastically expand the power and size of these groups beyond measure for the chokehold they would hold over public discourse.
Previously, we covered the Far Right Observatory with particular emphasis on its shady funding streams from state charity accounts as well as foreign backers. A sort of reptile fund for Irish activists, the anonymous (and badly spell checked) blog has received an exuberant €225k worth of moolah this year.
Not a bad haul even for the antiracist industry, however the sheer dearth of content from the FRO rivals even that of the non-starters at The Beacon and hints that the blog’s main purpose as a laundromat for cash injections.
Associated with the usual movers and shakers in the scene, the particular fixation of the blog has been piling pressure on tech firms with regards censorship using corporate tax affairs as leverage.
With hacks carrying their ‘reports’ into the mainstream, the FRO has so far been featured prominently in the Irish Independent, Irish Examiner and Irish Times despite a genuinely shocking lack of original output.
While the only individual publicly associated with the FRO is erstwhile libertarian socialist and full time NGO junkie Mark Malone, ‘Dr’ Lucy Michael made positive reference to her association with the collective during our undercover work back in 2020.
Alongside the FRO at the table with Facebook was the progressive campaigning outfit Uplift, famed for both their access to civic leaders and data collection practices. Hiring a variety of left leaning activists, we at The Burkean were happy to see long time friend of the publication Michelle Byrne apparently in full time employment following her 2020 resignation on the basis of our reporting.
While the literal blank cheques written for the FRO by the state came as some surprise, the fact they and other activist groups are firmly in bed with Facebook is less so. The fusion of the left and corporate world typifies our era and will only further ossify as freedoms erode under the cloak of pandemic mania or as the political situation deteriorates in America or Europe.
What we have forming in Ireland is a new governing cadre, a sort of ad hoc progressive securitate, drawing on socialists in name only, teaming up with corporate might from abroad, fixated on bypassing the public’s right to affirm itself through populist electoral options.
Such naked corporate collaboration by those who ostensibly stand watch against the captured neoliberal state ranks as the supreme political hypocrisy of the age. On one hand condemning the pathetic exploitation of the nation at the hands of foreign capitalism these people have no qualms grifting and aligning fully with these very corporations.
With their access to tech firms the NGO left may have just been handed the keys to the castle by the corporate overlords they apparently despise. Whatever one thinks, this coalition between the two may define the next decade of Irish political history.
You’d do well to keep an eye on them.