‘David defeated Goliath’ - Coimisiún na Meán tackling hate speech online

"It's important that safety becomes part of the way that social media companies operate."
Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

16.32 9 Dec 2023

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‘David defeated Goliath’ - Coi...

‘David defeated Goliath’ - Coimisiún na Meán tackling hate speech online

Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

16.32 9 Dec 2023

Share this article

While the responsibility of regulating platforms is a daunting one, the Coimisiún na Meán Chair has warned that “David defeated Goliath”. 

The regulation of content on social media was brought into sharp focus following the recent Dublin riots. 

Coimisiún na Meán have just published a draft of Ireland’s first Online Safety Code which aims to provide binding rules for video-sharing platforms to keep incendiary commentary regulated. 


Chairperson Jeremy Godfrey told The Anton Savage Show social media platforms “have to draw a line”, and Coimisiún na Mean “has to make sure that line is drawn in the right place”. 

“If [posts] are inciting hatred, they don’t necessarily incite violence,” he said. “And sometimes the language that's used can be quite subtle and not absolutely overtly inciting hatred. 

“That is something that that does need to be properly regulated. 

“People need to be able to report something and say this piece of content is inciting hatred and, if it is inciting hatred, the platforms need to take it down.” 

Mr Godfrey noted platforms already have policies against hate speech, but in many “heartbreaking” cases, these platforms don’t follow through on their policy. 

“Sometimes it's an individual who feels personally very harmed and threatened by a piece of content directed to them at them, or it's other pieces of content that get reported and either get ignored, or they think that the platforms haven't applied their own terms and conditions,” he said. 

“How quickly [platforms] respond and how accurately they respond has to change.” 


Mr Godfrey also said platforms need to be smarter about their algorithms. X owner Elon Musk has openly said in the past that the platform’s algorithm may push controversial content to further engagement on the site. 

"It's important that safety becomes part of the way that social media companies operate,” Mr Godfrey said.  

“[Coimisiún na Meán] will be able to launch an investigation, gather the evidence, get the data from the social media companies' analysis ourselves. 

“If they've not been compliant, we can make a finding of noncompliance and impose a fine.” 

Coimisiún na Meán and the Dublin riot

Mr Musk has previously said hate speech legislation, which will be applied to social media platforms, will lead to “armed police storming people’s houses”. 

Representatives from X have also criticised claims from the Irish Government that the platform did not engage with it during the Dublin Riots and allowed content inciting violence to spread quickly. 

The platform said it spoke with Coimisiún na Meán and followed necessary procedures. 

Mr Godfrey said the commission followed the violence in Dublin closely and has had “good engagement with all social media platforms”. 

“But engagement isn’t the same as compliance,” he said. 

“The question of whether or not social media companies did in fact comply with that obligation is something that can be assessed... I don't want to go into details of how that's been done.” 

David vs Goliath

When asked whether Coimisiún na Meán’s efforts to regulate X and other social media platforms is “the definition of David and Goliath”, Mr Godfrey said he is confident in the commission’s abilities. 

“I seem to remember it was David actually won the fight against Goliath,” he said. 

Coimisiún na Meán currently has a staff of 80 and is expected to expand to 160 next year to conduct individual investigations into compliance and monitor day-to-day compliance across platforms. 

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