Government slammed over ‘toothless’ regulation of tech firms

Government slammed over ‘toothless’ regulation of tech firms

THE Government has been accused of being ‘toothless’ in their dealings with technology companies following a disturbing Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Facebook.

Sean Sherlock TD
Sean Sherlock TD

Cork TD Seán Sherlock has urged the Government to reconsider its decision not to appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner in light of the exposé, which showed extreme content being left on the site despite violating the company’s guidelines.

One of the videos which allegedly passed moderation showed an adult man kicking a distressed toddler.

“The Government has decided that social media companies should be allowed to continue in a libertarian way,” Mr Sherlock, Labour Justice and Children’s spokesperson, said.

“This runs contrary to the Government’s previous commitment that they would regulate atrocious behaviour. The Government chose to trust companies who do not have a track record of trust in this area.”

Much of the footage shown in the programme was filmed in Dublin, where a reporter attended training sessions and filmed conversations in relation to moderating content online.

“Ireland is where every tech company that matters is located,” Mr Sherlock said.

“To suggest that we have to wait for international best practice to evolve to move on digital safety is a cop-out. International best practice has turned out to be international worst practice. I suspect that the Government does not want to do anything that will upset tech giants that are located here. If they were brave they would seek to put Ireland at the vanguard of online digital safety.

“Facebook will play the Government Advisory Council for what it is - a talking shop - and I believe it has No intention of dealing honestly with Government or with the Irish people.”

Fianna Fáil has expressed their intention to get Facebook bosses back in front of the Oireachtas Committee on Communication, which they also attended earlier in the year.

“Facebook prides itself on having robust rules, procedures and practices in place to ensure that inappropriate content is removed from its platform without delay,” Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Timmy Dooley said.

“However, it now appears that the people charged with this responsibility appear to be trained and guided to leave such content on the platform in order to drive traffic and maximise profits. If this is borne out to be true, it demonstrates a very search breach of trust on the part of the company.

“Seeing that Facebook are headquartered here in Dublin, I will be requesting that they appear before a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee to account for their actions.” Facebook also faces a backlash from Irish commercial partners.

Retail representative body Retail Excellence, which partnered with Facebook to provide training to retailers, suspended its relationship with the social media giant.

“As a representative body which promotes standards of excellence amongst retailers, it would be wrong for us to continue our partnership where they have fallen short,” chief executive Lorraine Higgins said.

“On that basis, we will not be working with Facebook until we are satisfied their policies have been overhauled regarding the posting of violent and abusive content for commercial gain.”

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