Inside The Telegram Groups Fuelling Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Words: Izzy Copestake

Image: Gilles Lambert – Unsplash

Telegram has over 700 million monthly users. End-to-end encryption, high anonymity, and lack of affiliation to larger parent companies like Meta, have made it popular for those with privacy concerns. Unsurprisingly, this has also made the messaging service a hub for those who might not want their identity revealed: namely, Ireland’s far right.

One of the rare times you may see members of the Irish far right advocating for women’s safety online is when it concerns white Irish women, and, what they describe, as a ‘foreign’ men. According to the ISD’s report, many of the rumours shared on these groups are falsified or unconfirmed by Garda, but those who plant the stories know exactly the hateful impact it will have. Early last year, accusations began to appear online accusing ‘foreign men’ of targeting women or simply acting suspiciously. This is a common trope amongst anti-immigration activists and the ISD has tracked similar behaviours in both Germany and Sweden. However, the spread of this disinformation has been seen to be extremely effective in mobilising large parts of communities across Ireland into protest, and some into direct violence against asylum seekers.

From January 27 to February 3 last year, Finglas experienced unrest and protests after widespread disinformation appeared online following the report of a sexual assault. Telegram chats exploded with rumours that two migrants or asylum seekers had assaulted a white Irish woman, despite the Gardai’s statement that they were looking for a ‘white Irish male suspect’ and not ‘migrants or refugees’.