In a significant development, the Irish police force, Garda, has launched a criminal investigation into the role of far-right online agitators in the recent surge of violence and riots. The probe, under the aegis of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, aims to ascertain whether online comments and speeches violate the Incitement to Hatred Act. This law specifically prohibits threatening, abusive, or insulting communication that could incite hatred.
Tracing the Roots of Violence
The detectives are currently examining the online activities of at least five well-known far-right activists and conspiracy theorists. The focus is on the escalation of threats and calls for violence, particularly in the wake of the stabbing of three children and their carer last Thursday. The online fallout of this tragic incident was characterized by a surge in misinformation, disinformation, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and hate speech.
Fuelling Anti-Immigrant Sentiments
Prominent activists leveraged various online platforms to stoke anti-immigrant sentiments and orchestrate protests, which subsequently led to an uptick in threats against journalists, public figures, politicians, and even Garda members. The police force has been meticulously collecting evidence from numerous online channels, including Telegram and WhatsApp, to determine if criminal prosecution is justified.
Challenges of Investigating the Far-Right
The Garda Commissioner has underscored the challenges of investigating the far-right, which he described as 'nebulous' compared to more structured transnational crime gangs. This online investigation is part of a larger inquiry that also includes the riots and the stabbing incidents. The Institute for Strategic Dialogue has pinpointed Telegram as a critical platform for Irish far-right groups and highlighted the growth of the ecosystem for hateful material online.