Standards body calls for new commission to scrutinise digital political campaigns funded by ‘foreign actors’
An electoral commission should be established and legislation brought in to address digital political campaigns paid for from outside the state, the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) has said.
The suggestion forms part of the Commission’s annual report for 2017. The report provides a summary of the Commission’s activities during 2017 under ethics and electoral legislation.
It includes information regarding compliance under the Ethics in Public Office Acts and the Electoral Act 1997 (as amended), including complaints and investigations, donations, state financing of political parties and the registration of third parties and corporate donors.
Sipo warned that a lack of regulation of social media campaigns allows “foreign actors to influence Irish elections and referendums with potentially significant consequences”.
Warning that there was no regulation of “foreign influence” in the political process in Ireland, it called for spending limitis to be brought in for referendum campaigns and elections ahead of “several referendums in the coming months”.
Mr Justice Daniel O’Keefe, Chairman of the Commission, detailed concerns about the potential effect of foreign influence in Ireland.
He said that “the Electoral Act 1997 is silent on expenditure on referendums, with neither expenditure limits nor disclosures contemplated by the Act”.
The report found that, in 2017, the leaders of eight political parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour Party, Sinn Féin, Independents 4 Change, Solidarity People Before Profit and the Green Party – received €7,629,193 in total.