Social media users have seized on a November 23 knife attack outside a primary school in Dublin, Ireland, which sparked anti-immigration riots, to spread mis- and disinformation.
The unrest, which saw protesters clash with police, vandalize and loot shops, and torch over a dozen vehicles, reached a scope that Irish police commissioner Drew Harris said had not been seen in decades.
Harris blamed the unrest on a "complete lunatic faction driven by far-right ideology,” saying it “is clear that people have been radicalized through social media over the internet.”
TikTok, a social media platform with more than a billion active global users, has become a source of false and misleading information about the riots and Irish authorities’ response to it.
Among other things, some posts deceptively implied that Ireland’s Defense Forces were deployed to quell the unrest.
One such viral video had over 176K views at the time of this publication. Posted by a TikTok user romanukk, it shows what appears to be a Mowag Piranha III Armored Personnel Carrier (APC) traveling down a city street.
The video includes the caption: “Heavy military vehicles at rathmines, #dublin #dublinriots #ireland #ira #army #military #rathmines #dublintiktok #dublincity”
The inclusion of the tag #dublinriots is misleading.
This vehicle’s movement had no relation to the riots.
In the video, the APC can be seen driving past an establishment called Grace's Bar & Lounge, located on 2 Rathgar Rd, in the Dublin suburb of Rathmines.
Grace's Bar & Lounge is approximately a one-kilometer drive from Cathal Brugha Barracks, headquarters of the Irish Defense Forces’ 2 Brigade.
The riots took place in Parnell Square, the city center. Cathal Brugha Barracks is approximately a 3.4-kilometer walk and a 4.5K-drive south of Parnell Square.
A large red L is also affixed to the back of the vehicle, which in Ireland signifies that a learner is behind the wheel.
Polygraph.info shared the video with Ireland’s Defense Forces. Lieutenant Eoin Clancy, assistant defense force press officer, confirmed to Polygraph.info in a written commentary that the video was from “a different part of the city” and had no connection to the November 23 protests.
“The Defence Forces conduct routine driving and training exercises both in Dublin City and beyond very regularly. Cahal Brugha Barracks is situated in Rathmines where the videos were taken, and this is also on the route from our training area in the Glen of Imaal to Cathal Brugha Barracks, and military vehicles in this part of the city is a regular occurrence,” Clancy said.
Clancy noted that the Garda Síochana, Ireland’s national police and security service, is tasked with maintaining law-and-order and internal security, although the Defense Forces can be called upon to assist “in certain circumstances.”
That did not happen on November 23.
“We can also confirm that the [defense forces] did not deploy any assets nor were any requested, in support of the Gardai [police] in relation to the disturbance in Dublin City,” Clancy said.
Other social media users have been making fake claims about the military being deployed after the Dublin riots, some using old footage, or misrepresenting current footage.
In one instance, TikToker deanchapmanfpv falsely identified projectors set up for Winter Light Dublin City as “military-style watch towers.”
That post received almost 400,000 views.
On X, blue check users have also shared old images of Irish military vehicles, falsely claiming they were dispatched to quell the unrest on November 23.
Others shared footage of the riots, falsely claiming the military were present at the scene.
The unrest started after the attacker stabbed five people, including three children, outside Gaelscoil Colaiste Mhuire, a primary school in Dublin, on the afternoon of November 23.
Authorities did not disclose the identity of the suspect, while information circulated online that the attacker was a foreign national.
Senior police sources told the U.K.’s Sunday Times newspaper that the attacker, originally from Algeria, was a naturalized Irish citizen. The man was reportedly subject to a deportation order in 2003 that was revoked in 2008.
The man had also been arrested for possessing a knife and causing criminal damage to a car in May. However, a judge nullified those charges with a “no-order decision,” which the Sunday Times noted “is usually made when a case involves serious mental health problems.”
Police have not established a terror connection in the attack.
Reports indicate far-right groups used encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal to organize a protest at the scene of the crime.
Aoife Gallagher, a senior analyst at the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the Irish Independent newspaper that prominent figures in Ireland’s anti-immigration movement were able to mobilize people to descend on the city center less than an hour after news broke of the incident.
The rioters attacked and injured people they suspected to be immigrants.
A Brazilian delivery driver who has been in Ireland for 20 years subdued the attacker at the school by hitting him on the head with his motorcycle helmet.
A child who suffered serious injuries in the attack was also from a migrant family — their father from Eastern Europe, their mother from South America.