Facebook to discuss its content moderation failings at Oireachtas meeting

1 Aug 2018

Leinster House, Dublin. Image: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Facebook executives will appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions about how it moderates dangerous and violent content.

Facebook representatives will today (1 August) answer questions put to them by the Oireachtas Communications Committee, following a controversial Channel 4 Dispatches investigation into practices at its Dublin office.

The investigation unmasked systemic failures to remove content flagged as inappropriate or otherwise unsuitable for the platform. Content included videos and graphic images of child abuse.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD, met with Facebook executives during a trip to New York last month, soon after the Channel 4 programme shocked viewers. At the time, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, TD, described the journalists’ findings as “shocking and unacceptable”.

Facebook executives to answer queries

Facebook’s head of public policy in Ireland, Niamh Sweeney, and EMEA head of content policy, Siobhán Cummiskey, are set to appear before the committee, which will get underway at midday.

It has paused its summer recess to return to Leinster House for the Q&A session.

What about CPL?

It is expected that Facebook will aim to place the blame for the issues uncovered on its Irish training partner, CPL Resources, as opposed to issues within its own internal policy. Increased supervision of CPL is expected, as are a number of as yet undisclosed policy alterations.

Increased supervision with Facebook’s own content experts during training at CPL is touted to begin soon. The social media company is also revisiting its policy that allows videos showing physical abuse against children to remain on the platform. It is liaising with law enforcement and child protection agencies to examine options.

Committee chair Hildegarde Naughton, TD, said: “It is unacceptable for any company in Ireland to circulate material fomenting hate, bigotry, cruelty or sadism, particularly when involving children.

“The committee looks forward to hearing Facebook’s response to the programme and its plans for credible, immediate reform of its policies and practices.”

Facebook is also set to discuss the Government proposals for a digital safety commissioner, something it supports in a broad sense. It does however have some concerns about potential freedom-of-expression curtailments as well as the “unpredictability” that may come with the creation of such a role.

Leinster House, Dublin. Image: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects