What does the word “Shinnerbots” mean?

Shinnerbots is a term that refers to Sinn Fein supporters on the Internet.

More specifically, it describes how “fanatic” some of the party’s supporters can be on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and TheJournal.ie.

This phrase consists of two words.

  • Shinner: A pejorative term for Sinn Fein supporters.
  • Bot: A person or program that works in an automated fashion.

This phrase is popular amongst people who believe that Sinn Fein supporters work together in order to dominate online discussions.

In other words, they believe that supporters of the party will band together in an effort to “drown out” opposing viewpoints.

The Internet skews left.

A lot of people believe that Sinn Fein is over-represented on the Internet.

And this is pretty true.

For example, if you were to use Facebook, Twitter or Reddit as a litmus test to gauge a party’s popularity, then you would probably convince yourself that Sinn Fein will win the next election in a landslide victory.

However, there is a good explanation for this over-representation. And typically speaking, it has nothing to do with “Shinnerbots”.

  1. There are more younger people on the Internet than older people. And these younger people tend to sway towards left-wing parties such as Sinn Fein.
  2. Sinn Fein often portray themselves as an anti-establishment party. This makes them attractive to younger voters.
  3. If you are happy with the status quo, you are far less likely to spend your time arguing about politics on the Internet. Instead, you will just turn up on the day and cast your vote.

“Everyone I know voted for Sinn Fein.”

Sinn Fein’s online popularity also works against its supporters by setting them up for disappointment.

For example, in the aftermath of a general election, it isn’t uncommon to see bewildered Sinn Fein supporters expressing their anger and confusion on the Internet.

This is because the overwhelming support for Sinn Fein within their social media bubbles will convince them that victory is a sure thing.

Basically, this “echo chamber” skews the reality of the situation.

As a result, it isn’t uncommon to see angry comments such as “Who voted for Fine Gael?!!”

These kind of reactions are also common when opinion polls are published.

These “Shinnerbot” accusations do not come completely without merit.

Although there is a simple explanation for Sinn Fein’s online popularity, the “Shinnerbot” accusations are not completely without merit.

In 2015, the party launched it’s “digital rising” campaign. The campaign’s purpose was simple. Sinn Fein supporters would sign up and then spread the party’s message across their platforms.

In December, 2020, reports surfaced about the existence of a secret Facebook group of 16,000 Sinn Fein supporters.

Later that month, the party’s leader, Mary Lou McDonald, told supporters to stop being “pig ignorant” online after opposition politicians complained about “pile-ons” on social media.

During the 2020 general election, the party had ten times more engagements on Facebook than any other part. In other words, their content received far more likes, comments and shares.

More recently, it came to light that people in Serbia and Germany are managing some of the party’s Facebook pages. Furthermore, in April 2021, the Data Protection Commissioner wrote to Sinn Fein over concerns that the party was keeping a secret database of voter intentions.

As you can see, it’s not all paranoia. There are enough facts out there for people to justify their suspicions.

It is also worth noting that we live in an age where online manipulation is a powerful tool.

Especially if you are a political entity.

Therefore, we should be careful about fobbing off people’s concerns about this kind of stuff as “paranoia”.