Sunday 21 October 2018

'You're the platform and you have to do something about it' - Senator calls out Facebook over online abuse

Catherine Noone. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Catherine Noone. Photo: Kieran Harnett

Ryan Nugent

Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone has called out Facebook on abusive and offensive comments being left on its site, saying it is their responsibility to monitor and remove them.

Ms Noone referenced abuse she has received on Facebook, involving serious issues such as rape and said that it was "unacceptable" the social media platform insist on users reporting each and every one of these incidents.

Speaking to Facebook officials at an Oireachtas committee meeting, she said: "you're the platform and you have to do something about it", and later argued that "editors of papers have to maintain standards in terms of their content. Why should social media platforms be any different?"

She said it was unreasonable for her to have to report each case before it is addressed, given the volume of abuse hurled at public figures online on a regular basis.

Facebook says that public representatives are not covered under the "full protection of our bullying policy".

Ms Noone alluded to a particularly abusive comment made to her online which alluded to rape, asking: "do you think it's acceptable to have personal comments made that are viciously offensive to public representatives, regardless of freedom of speech, which I'm acutely aware of?"

Head of policy Siobhan Cummiskey said that Facebook "doesn't think that's acceptable and doesn't think that's okay. We don't allow any kind of jokes or threats in relation to rape".

Ms Noone said that public figures are inundated with negativity on social media.

"Surely that should be policed in a better manner. I don't think it's acceptable," she said.

"I don't think that just because politicians are much maligned, and very unfairly so, regularly, I don't think it's acceptable, I just don't."

In response, head of public policy in Ireland Niamh Sweeney said the platform was not able to curb certain language being used online.

"It's very difficult to deal with the issue of language, because people have the right to defend, shock and disturb," she said. "We are limited in what we can do, because people can curse online."

Irish Independent

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