Most Irish people want algorithms to be regulated ‘strictly’

22 Jan 2024

Image: © Rene L/

A survey commissioned by ICCL and Uplift says that a majority of the Irish people want users – not Big Tech – to decide what content they see on their feed.

An overwhelming majority of people in Ireland want social media companies to be banned from collecting data on users’ personal attributes such as religion, ethnicity and political views.

According to research conducted by Ireland Thinks on behalf of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and Uplift, 82pc of respondents across the island are not in favour of platforms using such data – including health conditions and sexual desires – to pick what content is shown to people.

Nearly three-quarters of the Irish population believe that social media algorithms, the software that curates personalised content and displays it on users’ feeds, should be regulated more “strictly”.

In a statement published today (22 January), the ICCL said that a diverse cohort of 1,270 people from across the country were asked a series of questions by Ireland Thinks in the wake of new rules drafted by Coimisiún na Meán, Ireland’s new online regulator.

“Social media was supposed to bring us together. Instead, it tears us apart,” said Dr Johnny Ryan, a senior fellow at ICCL.

“Users – not Big Tech’s algorithms – should have the freedom to decide what they see and share online. These findings show that the vast majority of the Irish public do not want toxic algorithms interfering in their online lives.”

The Commission’s draft rules require recommender systems on video-based platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and TikTok that are based on intimate profiles of people to be turned off by default.

The civil liberties group claims that these algorithms promote “suicide and self-loathing” among teens, drive children into online addictions and feed users “personalised diets of hate and disinformation” for profit.

“Big Tech’s toxic recommender systems and algorithms are amplifying hate speech, weaponising every fault line within our communities – driven by relentless surveillance to maximise ‘engagement’ and ultimately profits,” added Siobhan O’Donoghue of Cork-based nonprofit Uplift.

“It is time social media corporations be made to give users real control over what they see and be held to account for failing to do so.”

Earlier this month, Coimisiún na Meán named 10 platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, TikTok and X, that will have to follow rules under Ireland’s online safety code, which is currently being finalised by the regulator.

Measures in the draft code include implementing robust age verification technology to make sure that children are not exposed to inappropriate content. The code also pushes for tools for parents to ensure they can protect their children from harmful online content.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic