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Foster urges Facebook to remove Sinn Fein's election register claims video


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First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

First Minister Arlene Foster (Liam McBurney/PA)

First Minister Arlene Foster has called on Facebook to act after claims from Sinn Fein that the UK Government is attempting to suppress voters rights through an electoral register canvass.

Mrs Foster has submitted a complaint to the social media giant asking them to remove or warn users about a video posted on Sinn Fein's social media earlier this week in which they accused the UK Government of planning a "mass purge of voters" in a "blatant attempt to suppress the voice of citizens in next year's historic Assembly election".

"The British Government are planning to suppress the democratic rights of citizens," the video said.

In a Tweet directed at Sir Nick Clegg on Thursday evening, the former UK deputy prime minister, who is now Vice-President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, the DUP leader said the platform is being used by Sinn Fein to cause "confusion and misunderstanding".

"Don't be complicit," she urged.

"Other false claims include: 'This is a blatant attempt to suppress the voices of citizens. The British are planning to suppress the democratic rights of citizens'.

"From your political career you will know updating the register is normal, not a conspiracy against anyone," she said.

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UUP MLA Robbie Butler

UUP MLA Robbie Butler

UUP MLA Robbie Butler

UUP MLA Robbie Butler said the party's claims were worthy of former US President Donald Trump and added the claims were a "classic example of fake news".

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has also rejected the claims, saying registering to vote is a fundamental part of the democratic process.

It comes after Northern Ireland's Electoral Office announced plans to carry out a review of the electoral register this summer.

Details will be sent to every house in Northern Ireland and people will be able to register online or via a paper form and anyone who does not return their form on time will be removed from the register.

Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said she would be seeking an urgent meeting with Secretary of State Brandon Lewis to discuss the issue. She said the plans were "very concerning as it could lead to tens of thousands of people losing their vote".

The party's West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said the plan was a "purge of voters".

He said the previous canvass in 2013 resulted in 60,000 people being removed from the electoral register.

The MP promised the party would continue to challenge the proposal and representatives have already met with Chief Electoral Officer Virginia McVea to express their concerns.

In response to the social media video, the NIO dismissed Sinn Fein's claims, saying they were "not true". "Canvass is not about removing people, but ensuring the register is as accurate as possible," a spokesperson said.

"Registering to vote is fundamental to the democratic process and people cannot remain on the NI register indefinitely without refreshing their registration."

The Electoral Office said the canvass was needed to ensure the "accuracy and completeness" of the register. It is a legally required part of the electoral process.

It had been due to take place last year but was delayed as a result of the pandemic.

Belfast Telegraph


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