Facebook to be called before Oireachtas committee over harmful content concerns

The Government is facing call to introduce a digital safety commissioner

Facebook to be called before Oireachtas committee over harmful content concerns

Picture by: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Facebook officials are to be called before the Oireachtas over the social network's failure to remove extreme and violent content from the site.

A Channel 4 investigation found staff were instructed not to remove content even when it violated the company's guidelines.

Extreme content, including assaults on children and images of self harm, all remained on the site -  despite violating the company's guidelines.

The 'Inside Facebook' investigation sent an undercover reporter to training sessions at Cpl Resources, the company's biggest content moderation centre in the UK, and at its office in Dublin.

Oireachtas committee

This afternoon, the chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, Hildegarde Naughton said she will be calling senior Facebook representatives in front of the committee.

“It is alarming and completely unacceptable that Facebook has apparently breached its own rules by allowing disturbing content to remain online in order to protect and boost revenue,” she said.

“It is sickening and hugely concerning, and it requires an immediate and fulsome response.

Noting that Facebook is headquartered in Dublin, Deputy Naughton said Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon has responsibility for the protection of data the company holds on citizens right across Europe.

She said Ms Dixon would also be called before the committee and called on lawmakers to make sure the protection of children "remains paramount in these circumstances."

Apology

Facebook has admitted that the investigation highlighted problems at its training centres and its bosses have apologised.

"We are one of the most heavily-scrutinised companies in the world - and that is right," he said.

"It is right that we are held to high standards.

"We also hold ourselves to high standards.

"I am here today to apologise for those failings and make it clear that we do recognise that they were weaknesses; that we should not be in this position.

"All I can say is that we are committed wherever failings are brought to our attention, to taking them seriously and to addressing them."

Digital safety commissioner

The investigation has led to calls for the Government to introduce a digital safety commissioner to regulate the removal of harmful content.

On the Pat Kenny Show this morning, Fianna Fail's communications spokesperson, Timmy Dooley, said self regulation is not working.

"Quite frankly, I don't believe that Facebook can be trusted to adhere to the standards a policies that they have set for themselves and last night's programme really provided evidence [for that].

He said the powers of a digital safety commissioner would ensure "proper oversight and regulation around the removal of harmful content from these various platforms.

"It would establish an independent code of practice for digital platforms and much more importantly in my view it would put in place powers to sanction the digital platforms such as Facebook.