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Keith Woods Elon Musk

Elon Musk

As far back as November 2019 Garda Commissioner Drew Harris told the Policing Authority that Ireland was beginning to see a rise in right-wing extremism. He stated: “The difficulty with it is that it’s spread through the web and spread through social media… We now see it starting to arrive on our shores.”

The paralysis of gardaí in the face of the current tidal wave of online hate is deeply worrying. An Garda Síochána might claim that the Prohibition of Incitement To Hatred Act, 1989 is weak but it’s not totally toothless. The fact that gardaí have taken little or no action under this legislation in the past begs the question as to whether they will be proactive when the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 is finally enacted. At present, social media firms are filling the vacuum and policing content.

Ireland First founder and anti-immigration political activist Derek Blighe had his Facebook page shut down on April 3. He reacted angrily, claiming it vanished with “no notification, no email, nothing… but you know what, it’s not going to stop the message I’m spreading.”

Five days later Derek Blighe was again whinging online: “Elon Musk, the so called defender of free speech has permanently suspended my twitter account without warning or a detailed reason! In reality this is the Irish governments [sic] attempt to cancel me completely, first my bank accounts and then my voice.”

Blighe’s woes didn’t end there and on the April 23 he was moaning: “TikTok account no.3 nuked… No warning or appeal. What more would you expect from communists?”

Another Ireland First member to find himself in trouble online in April was Philip Dwyer, who attempted to gain entry to Kilbride Army Camp in Wicklow while broadcasting live on his YouTube channel. He was hoping to show the asylum seekers accommodated there.

He first got in a confrontation with a security guard before being escorted off the site by three soldiers.

Dwyer said this episode was “the nail in the coffin of the channel, it was taken down”.

The sanctions on many social media platforms are inconsistent, while on platforms such as Telegram literally anything goes.

Take Roscommon’s Keith Woods (the online pseudonym for Keith O’Brien). Woods is notorious online for his fixation on Jewish people. While on YouTube he attempts to be careful about what he posts, he pulls no punches on his Telegram channel.

In April alone, Woods posted repeatedly about Jews. On April 1 he shared a thread claiming “Jewish control of Western foreign policy”; on April 3 he posted about Jewish managers having a cultural influence in UFC and WWE; on April 13 he shared a Nick Fuentes post extolling “geniuses who were racist antisemites”; on April 19 he shared a post from the US-based National Justice Party – which the Anti-Defamation League describes as “white supremacists” and “virulently antisemitic” – which attacked Jewish organisations for criticising online hate speech. Then on April 19 he posted: “The new director general of the Irish state broadcaster RTÉ is British/Jewish former Ofcom regulator Kevin Bakhurst. The current chairman of the BBC is also Jewish.”

Also in April, Keith Woods had a livestream on YouTube with Justin Barrett, the leader of the National Party.

On an earlier livestream with British far-right activist Mark Collett, Woods had explained: “I think I was actually one of first members of the National Party. I joined it in 2016 before their first ard fheis. I’ve been associated for a long time. There’s certain reasons I try not to be too associated with them in public, just kind of for their own sake; it’s probably better to have a little distance. I’m in close contact with people in the party. I absolutely support what they do.”

No surprise then that on the livestream Barrett rails against “global international finance capital” and discusses using shredders for the passports or citizenship documents of anyone he considers not of Irish ethnic origin.

Last weekend Keith Woods gained a surprising ally for his right to consequence-free speech when Elon Musk replied to a post by Woods regarding the Criminal Justice Bill with: “This is a massive attack on free speech”.

Lennon - The Monk

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