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Friday 17 August 2018

Minister tells social media giant he was 'appalled' by exposé after defending firm

Denis Naughten
Denis Naughten

Ken Foxe

Communications Minister Denis Naughten told Facebook he was "appalled" by an undercover report into the company - especially because he had publicly defended the social media giant on several occasions.

Minutes of a meeting held between the minister and representatives of the company, including Facebook's head of public policy, Niamh Sweeney, show Mr Naughten demanded a "significant step change" from Facebook.

The meeting was held in New York just days after a Channel 4 'Dispatches' programme revealed a chaotic system of moderating harmful and illegal content on Facebook.

At the meeting, Mr Naughten told Facebook of his disgust that content flagged as inappropriate was not being taken down and was actually being used for training purposes. "This sort of content shouldn't go up on the platform in the first instance, the system broke down on this occasion," he said.

He added: "I am appalled at the reports I have (regarding) the 'Dispatches' programme. Especially as an advocate of child protection and as someone who has defended Facebook publicly on a number of occasions. This is the second time Niamh Sweeney has come in front of me to apologise."

He informed Facebook that retraining and reviews were not enough and that he needed "significant measures" as a result of the broadcast.

In response, the company told him it had 7,500 content reviewers but admitted it was "difficult to train" them all after doubling the size of its team in only 12 months.

An account of the meeting - obtained under Freedom of Information - reported Facebook said it made "no business sense" to allow inappropriate content as advertisers did not want to be associated with it.

Mr Naughten said: "Colleagues across the EU are going to ask me about this. What significant changes are Facebook going to make so this never happens again?"

Facebook's Ms Sweeney was reported to have told the minister that this has not been "a moment of... greatness". The company said it was monitored by the EU Commission.

Irish Independent

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