Friday 18 October 2019

Ireland takes responsibility as tech watchdog seriously and is working to tackle the spread of online terror, Leo Varadkar tells UN

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks during the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit

Cormac McQuinn Political Correspondent in New York

IRELAND takes its responsibility as a watchdog over tech giants "very seriously" and is working with the EU to tackle the spreading of terror content online, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

He made the remarks to world leader including New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern, Emmanuel Macron of France and Jordan's King Abdullah at a meeting on the fringes of the UN General Assembly in New York.

They were gathered for a dialogue on the 'Christchurch Call to Action' aimed at battling the spread of hate and terror on social media platforms.

Ireland is taking part in the initiative - Led by Ms Ardern -  which came about after the horrific terrorist attack on mosques in New Zealand in March.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo: Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald via AP

The attack  that killed 51 people was live-streamed by the suspected perpetrator on Facebook.

In his speech to the gathering Mr Varadkar said: "The internet knows no borders. 

"Its ability to cross all frontiers is an awesome power that can serve us for good or for evil."

He said: "A great Irish poet once warned about how society could be maimed by fanatic hearts who turned hatred into sport. That is the threat we face today.

"It is only by building a coalition of government, industry and international actors that we can deal with this threat."

He welcomed the adoption of the shared-crisis protocol, which he said "will ensure the global community will not be caught off guard again".

French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

He said Ireland is preparing an Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill to regulate harmful content online and implement the EU Audio-visual Media Services Directive. 

"For the first time, video-sharing platforms and live-streamed content will be included in its scope," he said.

"We will also establish a regulatory authority with enforcement powers to ensure that technology companies take steps to ensure the safety of their users online.

"The EU headquarters of many of the world’s largest internet service providers are based in Dublin - companies like Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter. 

"We take our responsibilities as regulators very seriously.

 "Within the EU we are working to develop a specific framework for terrorist content to tackling the dissemination of content online," he said.

Mr Varadkar said: "Our mission is to work with partners across the political system, with civil society, with academia and particularly with industry, at home and around the world.

 "We know, from the horrors we have seen unfold in Christchurch and elsewhere, what we must do.

 "And we are determined to succeed."

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