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Google needs to explain how election transparency rules failed to catch website targeting Maria Walsh – Naughton

22nd May 2019 - Hildegarde Naughton TD

Google will have to answer why they failed to uphold commitments on European election transparency after a website targeting Maria Walsh because of her sexuality was promoted through paid ads, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, Hildegarde Naughton, said she expects Google executives to answer questions on the issue of disinformation during this year’s European Election campaign when the company appears before the International Grand Committee in Dublin later this year.

Google have removed the ads for the website today after it was brought to their attention by Fine Gael.

“The website contains a number of false claims about Maria and was promoted through Google Ads. This is a clear breach of Google’s own policy that they outlined before the elections,” Deputy Naughton said.

“I have long said that the time for self-regulation for tech companies is over and the fact that this website slipped through the net shows that companies need to be more stringent in how they police content at election time.

“These European Elections are among the most important in recent years and voters deserve to have access to valid and accurate information. Fake news and disinformation is damaging to debate.

“I will be contacting Google to come before the committee to discuss what was done to protect the integrity of our elections and what the next steps are, because clearly we have a long way to go.

“The European Commission has already put companies on notice that they will investigate if legislation is needed to ensure our political debate is conducted in a transparent way, if companies don’t go far enough alone.

“Ireland has a responsibility to be at the forefront of the push to ensure tech companies take this issue seriously,” Deputy Naughton said.

The ‘international grand committee’ represents 170 million users in the countries these parliamentary committees represent and regularly meets to discuss online companies and social media platforms.

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