Fianna Fáil spokesperson on communications, Timmy Dooley has said that he is disturbed at reports of unacceptable activities at Facebook and at allied organisations.
Deputy Dooley stated, “While the full facts are not yet known, but based on what has been reported to date, it appears that Facebook is allowing content to remain on its site that is clearly against its stated policies.”
A journalist from Channel 4’s Dispatches series uncovered a process known as ‘shielded review’ when working undercover as a content moderator with Facebook in Dublin.
It was reported that leading far-right activists received special protection. In addition, violent videos, including images of self-harm and assaults on children, remained on Facebook despite being reported by users and reviewed by moderators.
Commenting on this, Deputy Dooley said, “Facebook prides itself on having robust rules, procedures and practices in place to ensure that inappropriate content is removed from its platform without delay.
“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 serious breach of trust on the part of the company. In my opinion, this would be unacceptable and seeing that Facebook is headquartered here in Dublin, I will request that they appear before a meeting of the Oireachtas Communications Committee to account for their actions and to outline what steps will be taken to ensure it does not happen again.”
Deputy Dooley described some of the footage obtained during the investigation, as “beyond shocking”. He said potentially racist and xenophobic videos are being allowed to remain on the site as it generates profit for the company.
“Self-regulation of companies such as Facebook clearly isn’t working, and this is further proof of the need for a powerful and well-resourced Digital Safety Commissioner to be put in place as quickly as possible,” said Deputy Dooley.
He added, “Facebook may like to claim that this was a mistake. A company’s ethos drives behaviour and if the sole focus is to increase and maximise profits then middle and lower management will push the boundaries and allow behaviour that would not and should not be acceptable.
“The Government has been willfully negligent in terms of legislating for the Digital Age and its failure to act on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in the appointment of a Digital Safety Commissioner is hard to fathom.”
A statement issued by Communications Minister Denis Naughten from New York said he was aware of the contents of the Channel 4 programme and is deeply concerned.
Minister Naughten said, “the programme raises serious questions for the company in respect of the manner in which it handles reports of harmful or illegal content carried on its platform; the internal procedures it has in place to moderate harmful or illegal content on its platform; and the systems the company has in place to report instances of abuse, suspected abuse or other illegal activity to the appropriate authorities, including An Garda Síochána.”
Minister Naughten added, “Clearly Facebook has failed to meet the standards the public rightly expects of it.”
Responding to the allegations on RTE news, Facebook representative Siobhan Cummiskey said, “The allegation that we leave up this content to make money is absolutely untrue, and actually the opposite is true.”
Ms Cummiskey said that Facebook has been monitored by the European Commission to comply with its code of conduct since 2016 and has been “outperforming their expectations in removing that content.”
Deputy Timmy Dooley believes that the only way to ensure Facebook is compliant in removing offensive material is by fining the company.