Minister must rein in social media giants to tackle online dissemination of fear and hate

31 January 2023
  • Waiting for Online Safety Codes and the DTA Directive is too little too late

Labour media spokesperson Marie Sherlock has urged Media Minister Catherine Martin to compel social media giants to end the dissemination of fear and hate online before it is too late.

Describing reports in the Irish Examiner that online filming of anti-migrant protests are receiving over a million views as alarming, Senator Sherlock said the Minister must ensure that social media giants shoulder responsibility.

Senator Sherlock said:

“For weeks, individuals and groups have been preying on the frustrations of communities to stir up fear and hate. While we passionately defend the right of people to voice their opinions, it must never be acceptable that individuals are uninhibited from peddling lies and whipping up hate.

“Government must use its influence to ensure that social media companies do not allow this activity to fester.

“Labour is calling on Minister Martin to tackle the platforms whose EMEA headquarters are located in Dublin. It is vital that senior management are now called in to meet with Government and instructed to step up their responsibilities. Meta, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and TikTok must now stand against this increased harmful online activity.

“We are reiterating our call to investigate security checks for accessing online accounts, including the need to provide ID to set up an online profile to stop people making anonymous profiles and track down those who post harmful content.

“It is deeply concerning to learn the huge engagement with this online content. It is harmful, much of it is abusive, and it perpetuates deep untruths. Labour’s call follows that of the Far Right Observatory (FRO) last week to turn off the hate megaphone.

“Last year, Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen spoke to Oireachtas members about the content moderation system in place, or lack there off. The reality is, those who propagate hate and disinformation are rarely investigated and interrogated. This is because this content represents a positive financial return for the company. It’s appalling.

“The State’s response to social media regulation is currently in an obscure place. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill was enacted in January, Commissioners for Commisiún na Meain have been appointed, yet we’re still waiting for online safety codes, and the EU’s Digital Services Coordinators have yet to be put in place under the EU’s DSA approved late last year.

“The rise of this hateful content has been exponential. There can be no more waiting around. The Minister must tackle this once and for all and haul in the platforms that allow this content to foment and spread.”

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