May 19, 2021
Concerns raised as Facebook and Twitter reveal they have no timeframe for removing harmful content – Imelda Munster TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Media, Imelda Munster TD, has expressed serious concern that some social media companies are not keeping records of complaints received from their Irish users, and that they do not have turnaround times to remove harmful content.

Teachta Munster was questioning representatives from Facebook, TikTok and Twitter at meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Media, as part of the pre-legislative scrutiny process for the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.

The bill will provide for the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner, as part of a wider Media Commission which will make up a new media regulatory framework.

Teachta Munster said:

“In recent weeks we’ve had numerous NGOs, who advocate for the rights of children, expressing serious concerns that the bill provides for a systemic complaints process rather than an individual complaints process.

“Those who appeared before the committee include the ISPCC, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the office of the Ombudsman for Children, CyberSafe Kids and the Special Rapporteur on Child Protection.

“Whilst it is not envisaged that such a complaints process would deal with general complaints relating to online platforms, it is vital as a means of escalating complaints that have not been dealt with to the satisfaction of the complainant by social media companies.

“At the committee meeting I put this issue to the social media companies, as they are unsurprisingly content with a systemic complaints system.

“It is very concerning that at this time Facebook and other social media companies are not keeping records of individual complaints, and that they do not implement a turnaround time for the removal of harmful content from their platforms.

“This is a source of extreme distress for people, including children, who are affected by this harmful content being online.

“The lack of both mechanisms is further evidence, if it was needed, that this bill needs to include an individual complaints system.

“These online media platforms have absolved themselves of responsibility on this issue for long enough. It is clear that we need legislation to ensure that people who are the subject of harmful online content have a mechanism to have it removed in a timely manner.

“This legislation must have teeth if it’s to be effective.  An individual complaints mechanism is central to that.”

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