Alliance Leader Naomi Long MEP spoke at the European Parliament in Strasbourg today during a debate on election interference. She called on the EU to ensure that "whether it’s digital or physical, internal or external, we must work to eradicate every threat to free and fair elections."
While her colleagues spoke of the threat to democracy from online disinformation campaigns and technology, Mrs Long warned that "we should not ignore the old ways of distorting and disrupting democracy."
"Whilst today is focused on external interference, I come from a part of Europe where candidates and parties have faced intimidation and threats by paramilitaries in this very election."
Mrs Long's full speech is as follows:
As you will be aware, the UK is currently in the middle of a general election campaign and we are rightfully worried about the threats posed to our democracy by foreign powers.
The lessons of the Brexit referendum in 2016, appear not to have been learned, so it is vital we remain vigilant this time around.
In Northern Ireland, investigative journalism uncovered the dark money that flowed through Northern Ireland into Great Britain in the crucial last week of the campaign, but some of the murkier links and details have yet to be fully exposed.
And across the UK we still don’t know the extent of the Russian interference in our politics as Boris Johnson refuses to release the intelligence report into Russian covert actions in the UK - actions alleged to include data harvesting, cyber campaigning, and financial influence - before the election.
As someone who has consistently campaigned for more openness and transparency - I believe sunlight is the best disinfectant.
The way we consume information and conduct our politics in a digital age leaves us vulnerable to targeted propaganda and disinformation campaigns, including those orchestrated from overseas.
Social media platforms have failed us: just this week Sir Tim Berners Lee who invented the World Wide Web has called for action to tackle disinformation. However, we should not ignore the old ways of distorting and disrupting democracy.
Whilst today is focused on external interference, I come from a part of Europe where candidates and parties have faced intimidation and threats by paramilitaries in this very election.
Free and fair elections must not be taken for granted, we must continue to fight to uphold the integrity of our democracy at every level of government.
Whether it’s digital or physical, whether by internal or external players, we must work to eradicate every threat to free and fair elections.As the foundation of our democracy, they must be protected if democracy itself is to be upheld.