Over 150 Irish-posing X accounts found to be spreading extreme and anti-trans views ahead of elections

The accounts posted exclusively about Irish and international politics expressing extreme anti-immigrant, anti-trans, and anti-Gaza views.

This article is about anonymous Irish accounts spreading extreme views. In the photo, the hands of a person holding a phone with a coffee and a notebook on a table.
Image: Via Pexels - cottonbro studio

More than 150 social media accounts are posing as Irish users to purposely target politicians and news outlets and spread extreme, anti-trans and anti-immigration views ahead of the local and European elections in June. This social media activity was uncovered by The Journal, which conducted an in-depth analysis and suggested this could be part of a wider “influence operation” in Ireland.

So-called “influence operations” are attempts to manipulate voters’ opinions and perceptions of political events through the spread of misinformation. They occur when a large number of accounts start targeting digital spaces, often spreading extreme views and conspiracy theories.

One example of influence operations took place during the pandemic, where dangerous misinformation about vaccines was shared widely on social media. Other examples where influence operations took place include the 2016 presidential elections in the US and following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The analysis conducted by The Journal examined the online activity of over 150 anonymous “Irish” accounts on X, formerly Twitter, which are engaging in discussions about divisive topics in Ireland to spread extreme views and influence people’s opinions. Many of these accounts are targeting politicians, journalists and news outlets amid concerns from government officials and experts about the potentially harmful influence of outside groups in the upcoming European and local elections.

Raising these concerns last week, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said that it is “without question” that foreign actors would be “endeavouring to sow division in EU member states”.

In its analysis, The Journal examined accounts that showed similar patterns in their online activity and had comparable profiles. It found that, while many of these accounts claim to be Irish in explicit ways, they show signs of being operated by users who are not in or from Ireland. These accounts appear to emphasise their Irishness in ways that most genuine accounts do not.

Moreover, the majority of these accounts used animations or AI-generated pictures as their profile photo, including images of people dressed in the colours of the Irish flag or of symbols such as leprechauns. Their usernames usually included a first name followed by a string of digits.

These accounts posted exclusively about Irish and international politics, spreading misinformation about politicians and minority groups. Their activity also involves replying to posts shared by news outlets and politicians about topics such as immigration, trans rights, Gaza and the war in Ukraine.

The majority of the accounts express anti-immigrant, anti-trans, anti-Gaza and pro-Kremlin views. Most of the content they shared included videos of anti-immigration protests, disinformation about ethnic and religious minorities and trans people and conspiracy theories, as well as calls for votes to far-right political parties.

One of these accounts, @FellaWrites, claims to be a “former leftie who got more conservative” and replies to posts shared by news outlets several times per day. Set up in July 2023, the account initially focused on anti-trans arguments but has more recently switched to spreading misinformation about immigration and being critical of the support for Gaza and the recognition of the State of Palestine.

Another example is a user going by the name Mary O’Brian, whose profile picture is a photo of a statue of the suffragette Millicent Fawcett. The account expressly positioned itself as an “Irish TERF”, and its initial content focused on spreading hate about the LGBTQ+ community. The account shared content almost 22,000 times since its first post on X in May 2022, with an average of over 29 posts per day.

It is unclear how many of these accounts violate X’s policy on impersonation and deceptive identities, which states that users should not “pose as someone who doesn’t exist to mislead others about who you are or who you represent”.

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