Thursday 24 October 2019

Facebook 'leaves graphic content online in order to make money'

Dáil committee wants answers on revelations

Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg, has more than two billion users
Facebook, founded by Mark Zuckerberg, has more than two billion users

Fiona Dillon and Alastair Reid

Facebook will be called before an Oireachtas committee after it emerged that moderators in Dublin were instructed not to remove extreme, abusive or graphic content from the platform even when it violated the company's guidelines.

An undercover investigation found that while nudity is almost always removed, violent videos involving assaults on children, racially charged hate speech and images of self-harm by children all remained on Facebook after being reported by users and reviewed by moderators.

The revelations were made in Channel 4's 'Dispatches' programme, which aired last night, called 'Inside Facebook: Secrets Of The Social Network'.

A reporter worked at Cpl Resources, Facebook's largest centre for UK content moderation, and over a six-week period between March and April this year, attended training sessions and filmed conversations in the Cpl offices in Dublin.

Facebook, which is the world's biggest social network with more than two billion users, called the practices "mistakes" that do not "reflect Facebook's policies or values".

A particularly shocking video featured in the programme showed an adult man punching and stamping on a screaming toddler.

Moderators marked the video as disturbing - meaning users must click to view it - and allowed it to remain online, going on to use it in training sessions as an example of acceptable content.

One moderator filmed in the programme said: "If you start censoring too much then people stop using the platform. It's all about money at the end of the day."

Facebook told 'Dispatches' the video should have been removed by moderators.

In one training session filmed by 'Dispatches', the group is shown a cartoon of a woman drowning a young white girl in a bathtub, accompanied by the caption "when your daughter's first crush is a little negro boy". The trainer says such images should be ignored by moderators and allowed to remain online.

Facebook later told 'Dispatches' the picture would violate their policies on hate speech and it would investigate the incident.

In a statement released yesterday, a spokesperson for Cpl Resources said it noted the planned broadcast by Channel 4 of the programme.

"We understand the programme will look into work we carry out on behalf of Facebook. With Facebook, we have carefully reviewed our processes and have initiated the necessary changes where appropriate.

"We are not in a position to comment further pending the broadcast."

Fianna Fáil spokesperson on communications Timmy Dooley said he will be requesting that Facebook appears before a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee to outline what steps will be taken to ensure it does not happen again. He said the Government's failure to act on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in the appointment of a digital safety commissioner "is hard to fathom".

Barrister Ronan Lupton said: "Internet companies such as Facebook currently operate under so-called internal community rules.

"In the European Union, those community rules are underpinned by a legal defence known as the hosting defence.

"The hosting defence provides hosts such as Facebook with temporary protection or a legal defence, only until such time that they know that the offending content is published on their service."

Cliodhna O'Neill, of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said: "What we think is needed is regulation of this sector. The point we consistently make is that self-regulation isn't sufficient."


Irish Independent

Also in Business