Monday 19 August 2019

Taoiseach criticises social media companies over hate posts

Leo Varadkar said online platforms are not held to the same standard as newspaper publishers.

Facebook urged people to use reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates its standards (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Facebook urged people to use reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates its standards (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Aoife Moore, Press Association

The Taoiseach has criticised social media companies such as Facebook, that do not think they are “accountable” for what is posted on their platforms.

Asked about threats made against groups of people after a social media video of the recent Roscommon eviction, Mr Varadkar said online platforms are not held to the same standard as newspaper publishers.

“As I am concerned, social media posts like that are incitement of hatred and incitement of violence, and if you were a publisher of a newspaper or a broadcaster, you wouldn’t be allowed to promote that kind of stuff and you would be held accountable for it,” he said.

The fact that they don’t take down posts that incite hatred and incite violence is just unacceptable in my vie Leo Varadkar

“Social media companies don’t seem to think that they are in any way accountable. I know they can’t control the posts that people put up on websites or on social networks but they can take them down.

“The fact that they don’t take down posts that incite hatred and incite violence is just unacceptable in my view.”

Mr Varadkar added his Government is working on appointing a Digital Safety Commissioner to remedy the issue.

A spokeswoman for Facebook said that threatening comments were removed, but the users or pages themselves can remain on the platform.

“The post and comments on the post, to which the Taoiseach is referring, were removed as they were in violation of our rules on what is allowed on Facebook.

“The page itself does not violate our Community Standards as we believe that Facebook should be a place where people can engage in lively and critical debate around the issues that matter to them.

“However, if debate or commentary tips into bullying, hate speech or credible threats of violence that breach our community standards, we will take action on those comments or individuals.

“We urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards, so we can investigate and take swift action.

“We are committed to the removal of content that breaches our Community Standards. We also understand the motivation behind the establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner and we will continue to engage with the Government and others as the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill 2017 moves into the next phase in the legislative process.”

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