Information society services, i.e. the draft legislative proposals set out in the new Part 4A to the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 will place obligations on online platforms with regard to the reporting of possible disinformation, misinformation or manipulative / inauthentic behaviour in the online sphere to the Electoral Commission prior to the beginning of an electoral period, to put in place a notification mechanism for users toreport possible disinformation relating to online electoral information and misinformation relating to online electoral process information and to comply with the requirements of any compliance notices that may issue from the Electoral Commission in connection with online misinformation, disinformation, manipulative / inauthentic behaviour and unlawful bot activity during electoral periods.
Electoral Reform Bill 2022 (Draft Heads of Bill - new Part 4A)
The draft legislative proposals set out in the new Part 4A of the Electoral Reform Bill 2022 are intended to protect the integrity of Ireland's elections against online misinformation, online disinformation and online inauthentic / manipulative behaviour.
Under the new Part 4A, the Electoral Commission, which is being established under Part 2 of the Bill, will be assigned additional monitoring and investigatory functions with regard to the dissemination of disinformation relating to online electoral information, misinformation relating to online electoral process information as well as functions to prevent manipulative or inauthentic behaviours online.
The Electoral Commission shall have additional powers of enforcement, through its authorised officers and its chief executive, to enable it to carry out its monitoring and investigatory functions effectively. In particular, during electoral periods, the chief executive will have power to issue to the operator or host of an online platform:
- a take-down notice;
- a correction notice;
- a labelling order;
- an access-blocking order; or
- a notice requiring the publication of a statement informing all affected end-users of any manipulative or inauthentic behaviour or the use of undisclosed bot activity.
In addition, the Electoral Commission will have a function to promote public awareness of online misinformation, disinformation and manipulative or inauthentic behaviour and it may establish, facilitate or promote educational
or information programmes in pursuit of this function. A power to publish codes of conduct in consultation with an Advisory Board and a Stakeholder Council will also be assigned to the Electoral Commission.
Part 4A will impose an obligation on online platforms to report possible disinformation, misinformation or manipulative / inauthentic behaviour in the online sphere to the Electoral Commission at the beginning of an electoral period and will require online platforms to put in place a notiifcation mechanism for end-users to report possible disinformation relating to online electoral information and misinformation relating to online electoral process information.
The draft proposals provide for offences and penalties for a failure to comply with any of the proposed enforcement notices, for breach of mandatory codes of conduct, for breaches of the obligations on online platforms, for the dissemination of specified misinformation and disinformation and for using bots to cause multiple online presences directed towards influencing an election or referendum.