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Mark Zuckerberg in Dublin today
Mark Zuckerberg in Dublin today
Image: Niall Carson

Mark Zuckerberg tells TDs that Facebook is working proactively on child protection issues

Three TDs met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the Merrion Hotel in Dublin today
Apr 2nd 2019, 7:36 PM 14,857 24

THREE TDS met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Dublin today where they discussed the threat of fake news, child protection and the regulation of social media platforms. 

Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, Fianna Fáil’s James Lawless and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who are also members of the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, said they impressed upon Zuckerberg the need to engage with legislators. 

Zuckerberg also impressed on the politicians the importance of the importance of the Dublin office, as well as the data centre in Clonee.

The three TDs, who are also members of the International Grand Committee on Disinformation and Fake News,  described today’s meeting in the Merrion Hotel as “positive”. 

Child protection

Naughton said she questioned the Facebook founder on child protection.

“I warned about the risks to children of all ages because of the advancements of technology and the way in which social media interacts with all sections of society.

“Mr Zuckerberg told me that Facebook are working proactively on this issue,” she said. 

“However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will see what measures are implemented or what necessary actions we, as legislators, need to take,” Naughton said.

On the issue of age verification, which Naughton said is one of the few ways to protect children online, she told Zuckerberg that people or children should not have to provide biometric data or their PPS numbers to Facebook.

“What I did say to Mr Zuckerberg was that there were various ways that people can prove their age. We need to find a way to verify age without having to share sensitive data directly with Facebook or any other social media platform,” said Naughton.

“My concern in this area is due to paedophiles online masquerading as young people and preying on and grooming children.

Facebook Live

She also raised the issue of Facebook Live streaming, and its risks, highlighting the recent massacre in New Zealand, which was streamed online. She said he did not give any firm commitments as to how the company plans to tackle that issue. 

Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Science and Technology James Lawless said it was particularly helpful to meet with Zuckerberg in relation to Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill, which aims to ensure political advertising is more transparent. 

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“Facebook recently put in place new regulations which seek to provide greater transparency in political advertising. This is a welcome and positive move especially in the run up to the EU elections in May but I believe it must go further with transparency measures placed on a statutory footing. I agree with Mr Zuckerberg that there is a need for governments to take a more active role and that it can’t be left to social media giants alone to regulate and police the internet,” he said. 

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he spoke to the Facebook boss about how European regulation rather than self-regulation has to oversee the development of internet platforms.

Ryan said Zuckerberg indicated recently that crowd sourcing and an independent board could help review news material and arbitrate on the taking down of harmful material.

“I think such oversight has to be provided by professional journalism and due process rather than from company initiatives,” he said, adding: 

“As the European headquarters for so many international tech companies, Ireland has a special responsibility to get the standards right. It requires thoughtful policy making, especially given the potential for new artificial intelligence applications and the internet of things to further increase the level of personal surveillance.”

It is understood the Facebook founder said he wanted GDPR framework to be adopted worldwide as he felt it was a balanced framework, which the TDs welcomed.

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Christina Finn

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