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Thursday 19 September 2019

Facebook posts are 'an incitement of violence' - Varadkar

Leo Varadkar: The Taoiseach said online remarks about the Strokestown eviction were ‘incitement of violence’
Leo Varadkar: The Taoiseach said online remarks about the Strokestown eviction were ‘incitement of violence’
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described some of the social media commentary on the Roscommon eviction row as "incitement of hatred and incitement of violence".

He has promised Government intervention to ensure stricter rules for online posts in the new year.

Mr Varadkar was responding to questions about Facebook posts which called for those involved in enforcing the Roscommon eviction to be shot and fed to pigs. Another post with a similar tone referred to bank chiefs.

"As far 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.

Mr Varadkar added that social media companies "don't seem to think that they are in anyway 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. And the fact that they don't take down posts that incite hatred and incite violence is just unacceptable in my view," he said.

Facebook has removed the post in question and said the comments referred to by the Taoiseach were a violation of their standards.

However, the page where they were posted was not taken down as Facebook wants to be "a place where people can engage in lively and critical debate around the issues that matter to them".

A spokesperson told the Irish Independent: "However, if debate or commentary tips into bullying, hate speech or credible threats of violence that breaches 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."

The Taoiseach said he wants Communications Minister Richard Bruton to work out the "best and most effective way" of keeping such commentary off the internet.

He noted that the Government was working towards the creation of a Digital Safety Commissioner (DSC), which he hopes to advance in 2019.

"We just would need to be sure that would actually be effective, as we want to do something that is effective.

"You can always be seen to be doing things in politics, but we actually want to do something that works and Richard in particular is going to work in that area over the course of 2019," Mr Varadkar said.

Last month, Facebook raised concerns at an Oireachtas committee that a DSC has the potential to interfere with freedom of expression.

The internet giant warned TDs that efforts to restrict harmful or offensive activity online needed to balanced.

Facebook argued that it could result in the Irish courts issuing orders for incidents outside of this country.

Irish Independent

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