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Online Safety Commissioner must ensure social media companies limit spread of harmful online content – Farrell

30th November 2023 - Alan Farrell TD

The Online Safety Commissioner must ensure social media companies are held to account by limiting the spread of harmful online content, according to Fine Gael TD Alan Farrell.

The Dublin Fingal East TD said online hatred is having real world consequences for ordinary people. This requires a coordinated response from Government, the Online Safety Commissioner, and Gardaí who must work with social media companies to shut down offensive and incendiary content as soon as it appears online.

Deputy Farrell, Fine Gael’s Justice spokesman, said, “The events of recent days have rightly shocked the nation and made many people across Ireland feel unsafe in their communities. While such events are extreme; smaller, more individual acts of anti-social behaviour, hate, and intimidation are too common on our streets.

“Much of this behaviour is being fuelled by online activity, which is stoking hatred, spreading conspiracy theories, directly and intentionally promoting misinformation with the goal of sowing division in our society, and glorifying wanton acts of violence.

“Minister McEntee told the Dáil that a detective in Dublin was actively engaged with social media companies throughout Thursday including TikTok, Meta, Instagram, and Facebook, and was also engaged with X.  She claimed TikTok and Meta were responding and engaging with Gardaí to take down vile posts.

“However, X did not engage or even fulfil their own community standards, which is unacceptable. That is why the Online Safety Commissioner has been established to ensure these companies are accountable.”

Deputy Farrell continued: “I believe that a dangerous and pervasive ideology is being promoted online and the goal of these actors is to see more division in Ireland, using wedge issues such as migration, the LGBTQ+ community, and more to create a sense of winners and losers in Irish society.

“Unfortunately, as we have seen at home and abroad, this narrative can drive people to more extreme views, some of whom act upon these ideas in the real world. We see this in casual bigotry, overt racism, hate crimes, library protests and more.

“Fine Gael are committed to having more Gardaí on our streets and that they have more power to tackle criminal behaviour, this includes raising the age cap on Garda entrants, increasing the Garda Training Allowance, introducing body cam and facial recognition technology legislation, and setting a goal of recruiting between 800 to 1,000 Gardai in 2024.

“While these measures are positive and will result in safer streets, we must also deal with the root causes. I believe that we can begin that process by engaging with key bodies including the Gardaí, the Department of Justice, the Online Safety Commissioner, and importantly social media companies.

“Furthermore, I believe the recently established Coimisiún na Meán must play an important role in holding online media companies to account and informing Government policy.

“We must ensure that algorithms used online do not further drive people into an echo chamber where the worst instincts are reinforced and enhanced. That we can better monitor the activity of groups known to be inciting hate. And that we implement effective removal of extreme content.”

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