Facebook has removed the profile of Galway-based extremist Dara O’Flaherty. The company took the step earlier this week, coinciding with activists, the Far Right Observatory, and The Beacon drawing attention to O’Flaherty’s continued misuse of his page over the last few weeks. He’d been using his Facebook page to promote conspiracy theories as well as posting threatening messages to activists, politicians, and public figures for the last few years.
Speaking to The Beacon a spokesperson for Facebook confirmed the company had deleted O’Flaherty’s profile. They said the company took the step as a result of him “violating our policies”. According to Facebook it bans hate speech on its platform, defining the concept as “a direct attack against people” based on a person’s “protected characteristics”. These “protected characteristics” include, amongst other things, sexual orientation, race, nationality, gender identity, and religious beliefs.
O’Flaherty regularly posted content to his Facebook page that violated the above policies. As The Beacon highlighted last month, the Galway man used his page to post content filled with conspiracy theories and threats directed at those he believed to be enemies.
In early October he uploaded a video in which he informed activists, politicians, and public figures that he and other anti-vaccination, far-right activists would be holding a “public enquiry” with the aim of investigating supposed crimes they committed against the population during the pandemic. He declared “Wherever we think that we might find this person that we want to question, that’s where we will be”. On top of this he claimed he’d also target the friends and family of identified targets. And, going on, he warned them “There’s no hiding from us” and “we’re coming”.
In the past O’Flaherty made posts echoing the contents of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. It contends there’s a plot on the part of global leaders to eliminate white people by encouraging migration from developing nations. O’Flaherty wrote that the Irish government is “paying for migrants to come to Ireland so they “can boom and then we’re gone”.
He’s also used Facebook to call for violence to be used against counter-protestors writing “don’t try to fight people try to kill them”. Gardaí have arrested O’Flaherty a number of times, most recently when he appeared to storm into the Australian embassy in Dublin in September.
Activists and civil society groups have long criticised Facebook for its lack of appropriate action in dealing with hate speech and racism on the platform.
In Ireland the Far Right Observatory has regularly pointed to the problems with the social media giant. The group provided a briefing document to Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg in 2019 in which it argued that his company “failed to tackle far right misinformation and organising on Facebook during the Repeal referendum in Ireland in 2018”.
Last month the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD) published a new report about Facebook and its lack of action in combatting disinformation. It highlighted the company is either unable or unwilling to deal with COVID-19 misinformation, pointing to the huge growth of the Dolores-Cahill led World Doctors Alliance on the platform.
It comes as Zuckerberg announced late last month the the company was rebranding. During a livestream to announce the move the CEO said Facebook would now be known as Meta “To reflect who we are and what we hope to build”.
But Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen called on Zuckerberg to stand down as CEO describing, the rebranding effort “unconscionable”. She said this was the case given the company’s proposal to expand instead of fixing its current issues around disinformation, hate speech, and the mental health impacts of using the platform on young people.
Update Tuesday 9 November: Facebook appears to have reinstated O’Flaherty’s profile.
Featured image via Pexels