Social Media companies must be treated as publishers not platforms – McGahon

10th January 2021 - Senator John McGahon

Social media companies like Twitter and Facebook must now take responsibility and realise that they are publishers and not platforms according to Fine Gael Senator and Seanad Spokesperson on Climate, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, John McGahon.

Senator McGahon said: “Facebook and Twitter have been able to hide behind the excuse that they are merely platforms facilitating online conversations. This has resulted in misinformation, conspiracy theories and other damaging content being allowed to spread and grow like wildfire.

“Newspapers and broadcasters, whether local or national are required to fact check and research the content they publish or broadcast. If they don’t, they face the consequences of libel laws where they can be sued for defamation.

“Facebook and Twitter are not held to the same journalistic standards as traditional media. Facebook’s powerful algorithms can guide people to more extreme content which is often in closed or hidden Facebook groups. It’s a rabbit hole, and it is the perfect environment for the growth of conspiracies and misinformation.

“The recent banning of Donald Trump from both platforms was the right thing to do. However late it was, it is a prime example of how both companies are now acting like publishers while pertaining to be platforms. If they are going to make editorial decisions about the content on their platforms, then they have assumed the role of publishers and they must recognise that.

“It’s time for Facebook and Twitter to face the facts. They are publishers who promote media content. They should be bound by the same rules that traditional media have operated under for decades.

“At a European level, the power that these companies wield is being increasingly recognised. The proposals under the Digital Services and Digital Markets legislation show that the European Commission has woken up to the responsibilities that these companies must take on. As home to the European Headquarters of both, it’s only right that Ireland makes its voice heard too and puts forward a serious view on Big Tech and regulation, as we will increasingly be looked to as the de facto European regulator,” added Senator McGahon.

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