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Dublin: 15 °C Thursday 2 July, 2020

Politicians to return from holidays to grill Facebook execs on undercover Channel 4 report

An undercover Channel 4 Dispatches programme into moderation at the Dublin Headquarters revealed widespread failures.

Image: Shutterstock/Lloyd Carr

FACEBOOK EXECUTIVES ARE to appear before an Oireachtas Committee this week to answer questions about the undercover Channel 4 Dispatches programme into moderation at the Dublin Headquarters.

The documentary in which a reporter was sent to work as a content moderator for Facebook in Dublin. The programme claimed thousands of reported posts remained unmoderated and on the site, including posts relating to suicide threats and self-harm.

In a blog post on Facebook, the company acknowledged that some of the contents of the programme fell short of “the high standards we expect”.

The fact that recordings were taken in Ireland has prompted politicians to say that more must be done in Ireland to police content on multinational websites based here.

Last week, Communications Minister Denis Naughten said the company in New York on foot of a Dispatches documentary. He told Facebook he was “appalled and disgusted” at the company’s lack of progress in tackling offensive material.

On Wednesday, politicians will return to Leinster House from their summer holidays to grill the policy and content executives at Facebook about the social media platform’s moderation of violent and harmful content.

Scheduled to appear before the committee are Niamh Sweeney, head of public policy, Facebook Ireland and Siobhán Cummiskey, head of content policy for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Committee Chair Hildegarde Naughton TD said it was essential for lawmakers to question Facebook following the documentary.

She said programme raises new questions about Facebook’s commitment and ability to police its dissemination of content worldwide.

“The programme offered persuasive evidence that Facebook bends its own rules and tolerates abusive content, including in instances when the source in question has a large and lucrative following that drives revenue to Facebook,” Naughton said, adding:

It is unacceptable for any company in Ireland to circulate material fomenting hate, bigotry, cruelty or sadism, particularly when involving children,” she said. “The Committee looks forward to hearing Facebook’s response to the programme and its plans for credible, immediate reform of its policies and practices.

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