The government of Ireland is preparing to ban political parties from accepting campaign donations in cryptocurrency. The move aims to block the perceived threat of Russian interference in the European nation’s elections against the backdrop of a clash between the West and Moscow over the war in Ukraine.
Ireland to Limit Foreign Political Support for Its Parties, Including Crypto Donations
The executive power in Dublin is drafting new political integrity rules to limit foreign political donations amid fears that Russia might try to influence Ireland’s electoral process. The stricter regulations are meant to prevent Irish parties from accepting donations through cryptocurrencies and oblige them to fully reveal their properties.
A report by the Irish daily Independent describes the changes as a significant shake-up of the country’s electoral legislation, which will grant the Electoral Commission powers to issue take-down notices to social media platforms and alerts of online misinformation attempts. Local Government Minister Darragh O’Brien, who is leading the reform efforts, has been quoted as stating:
The appalling invasion of the Ukraine and insidious disinformation war highlight the ongoing fundamental threats faced by all democracies.
O’Brien also unveiled that his colleagues have already agreed to implement the stringent measures he is proposing in order to protect Ireland’s “democratic system given the escalating threat of cyber warfare targeting free countries.” The respective amendments to the political funding laws will be made through the Electoral Reform Bill 2022.
The new Electoral Commission of Ireland, which should be established by the summer, will be tasked to also introduce guidelines for political advertising on the internet, including requirements for parties to clearly state how ads are funded and the audiences they are targeting. Party leaders will have to declare that their political organizations are adhering to the new regulations.
The initiative to update the Irish political funding rules predates the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In January, Darragh O’Brien asked Attorney General Paul Gallagher to establish a taskforce comprising legal experts and political scientists to examine the need for new election integrity laws. He was citing “serious concerns” over the deteriorating security situation in Eastern Europe and “well-documented escalation of cyberattacks on democratic states.”
Meanwhile, the cyberspace has become another battleground in Russia’s war with Ukraine with the two sides registering hacking attacks on government websites and databases. Both Kyiv and Moscow have also turned their attention to cryptocurrencies, with the Ukrainian government raising millions of dollars in crypto donations while the Russian Federation looks to employ crypto assets as a means to evade sanctions.
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