Irish 'COVID-19 information' Facebook group spreading homophobic and far right material

Beginning as a coronavirus information group, the group has grown to share racist and homophobic posts including attacks on Roderic O'Gorman.

A grey haired man with glasses standing outdoors

A Facebook group which describes itself as a coronavirus information page has over the last while transformed itself into a platform to share racist, homophobic and transphobic views.

A report by The Times revealed that the “Irish Covid-19 news, politics and current affairs group, free speech zone” Facebook group started in January and has more than 3,800 members. While the majority of discussion on the page is in regards to the coronavirus, peppered throughout are posts with anti-trans, racist and homophobic leanings.

In recent weeks, the site has posted links and stories in support of JK Rowling, stories smearing Roderic O’Gorman, while members have posted links making light of the death of George Floyd, whose murder by policemen brought the Black Lives Matter protests to the fore.

The Facebook group has also made posts encouraging its members to attend a protest against O’Gorman, who has been attacked for a photograph taken at a Pride march two years ago picturing him standing alongside activist Peter Tatchell.

Online attacks on O’Gorman have become so numerous, he eventually released a statement saying, “Over the last few days, there have been claims made online about me which I cannot allow to stand uncorrected. The accusations are rooted in homophobia, stoked by anonymous far right Twitter accounts. These accounts are using manipulation for their own ends, playing upon the genuine deeply held concern we all share for child protection.”

In an interview with The Times, Aoife Gallagher from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, explained, “The repurposing of Facebook groups is something we’re seeing more and more often. In the US, groups that were set up to protest lockdowns are now awash with Black Lives Matter misinformation and conspiracies.”

“In Ireland, far right actors have been using Facebook groups to spread their messaging for some time. We saw this last year when certain far right leaders infiltrated local Facebook groups to spread hateful content about migrants and refugees.”

Gallagher continued, “The proliferation of this kind of content in such groups, and the attacks on Roderic O’Gorman recently, shows that Ireland is not immune from the kind of rhetoric that has taken over the US in recent years.”

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