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spillane's verdict Social media has become an echo chamber for fake news... and it needs to be cleaned up


Kerry football legend, Sunday World columnist Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Kerry football legend, Sunday World columnist Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Kerry football legend, Sunday World columnist Pat Spillane. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

GAA President Larry McCarthy hit the headlines last weekend when he took issue with some of the criticism levelled at Mayo players after the All-Ireland final.

He said: ‘words matter’ and suggested that perspective is being lost in some of the commentary.

Larry warned of the mental health impact such ‘overly harsh scrutiny’ could have on players.

Meanwhile, former Mayo player John Casey described the online abuse of players and managers as an ‘absolute disgrace.’

I agree, to a point, with both gentlemen.

But there is a danger of every commentator being unfairly tarred with the same brush.

Having reviewed all the coverage of the All-Ireland final across the mainstream media platforms of television, radio and the print media I can say hand on heart that, with one notable exception, the coverage was fair and balanced.

Therefore, it is unfair to make a sweeping statement when really it was just one columnist who overstepped the mark.

Social media is an entirely different matter, however.

Basically, this is wild west territory. It is not just a GAA problem – it is a societal issue.

Social media has become an echo chamber for fake news.

Worst still, nobody in authority is challenging the false narratives which emerge from this poisoned rabbit hole.

It is important to note that it’s not just GAA players and managers who are vilified on social media.

Columnists, such as yours truly, and others, are regularly targeted as well.

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Take my own case.

I recently had a peek at some of the comments posted by the keyboard warriors in the wake of my suggestion that Tyrone needed to clarify what exactly went on in their squad during the latter stages of the championship with regard to Covid-19.

Just for the record, I will re-state my request once again today.

I noted that when it was raised after their All-Ireland win, joint manager Feargal Logan said it wasn’t the time to address it.

Well, there won’t be a better time than now to tackle the issue.

Typically, my critics on social media chose not to offer any rebuttal to my suggestion.Instead they just posted the usual personalised drivel.

Here a small sample. I was called ‘Mrs Doubtfire’ and compared to disgraced US lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

And it got more personal… ‘Pat will only apologise in a carpark of a knocking shop in Listowel’…. ‘the man has no class’… ‘has a head like a weak Kerry weasel’.. ‘what a gobshite’.. ‘Pat Spillane is a clown’ or ‘he is bitter old bollix that should have been put out to pasture 20 years ago.’

Ageism is a constant theme on social media, it keeps cropping up.

It is as though there are some young people out there, we presume they are young from the tone of their comments, who cannot handle the fact that one or two of their elders have achieved something in life.

For example, even though he is yet to even meet the players, the new Kerry boss Jack O’Connor was targeted by the keyboard warriors in the last week.

They keep referring to the fact that he is aged 60 and that he hasn’t won an All-Ireland since 2009.

I mean, give the man a chance.

Social media can be a sewer pit which can be occupied by cowardly, spiteful individuals who spew bile in all directions.

We as a nation have stood by and allowed the multi-billion euro corporations who own the social media platforms to get away Scot-free.

It is simply unforgivable that they are not bound by the same libel laws as the mainstream media.

They are now totally out of control and governments everywhere need to act to try and control matters.

The GAA cannot be asked to solve this problem.

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