When groups appeal for a sensitive approach to the ‘Repeal’ referendum

by Shane Dillon
0 comment
'Repeal' referendum

With social media continuing to be held up as something that divides us – as well as uniting people, and also being a great platform to help people – I’m currently in some to-and-fro with one social media giant over content connected to the upcoming ‘Repeal’ referendum.

As a disclaimer, I previously held a senior role within Special Olympics, and thus may be sensitive to the portrayal of people with Down syndrome, and I’ve personally noted a number of social media ads referring specifically to such individuals and the referendum.

One leading charity and advocacy group, Down Syndrome Ireland, specifically noted earlier this year: “People with Down syndrome should not be used as an argument for either side of this debate.

“Down Syndrome Ireland believes that it is up to each individual to make their own decision about which way to vote in the upcoming referendum.

“We are respectfully asking both sides of the campaign debate, all political parties and any other interested groups to stop exploiting children and adults with Down syndrome to promote their campaign views.

“We would also like to remind campaigners on both sides of the debate that people with Down syndrome listen to the news and read media articles, including social media content. We ask that the tone of the debate is respectful towards all people with disabilities.”

Despite such a clarion call to stop, effectively, weaponising Down syndrome for use in either side of this divisive debate (in a call widely repeated by similar groups), at this stage I’ve seen several different social media ads and videos ignoring such groups’ calls to explicitly refer to people with Down syndrome in relation to the looming referendum, as I suspect and expect many readers also have.

Regardless of your views on the upcoming referendum, there’s an interesting and important issue here to note whether or not any group should refer to another one to further its opinions, when advocates ask not to do so.

If and when I can get that tech giant’s approach to presenting such content clearly outlined, I’ll report it back.

I think we’d all like to know how, exactly, social media platforms are approaching their role in this upcoming referendum, and to have even one of them explain their view would be helpful and interesting, especially with the power and responsibility of social media platforms in any such complex issue.

Related Articles