Minister for Communications summons Facebook bosses for "urgent meeting" following Channel 4 exposé 2 years ago

Minister for Communications summons Facebook bosses for "urgent meeting" following Channel 4 exposé

Tuesday night's documentary has led to calls for greater regulation of internet services.

Minister for Communications Denis Naughten is set to meet with Facebook officials while in New York following Tuesday night's airing of Channel 4 documentary Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network.

Advertisement

Naughten will meet with executives to discuss the Channel 4's Dispatches programme, which acted as an exposé on the social media giant, outlining shocking failings in their content moderation procedures.

The documentary followed an undercover reporter who spent seven weeks in the company of Facebook moderators, recording video from inside of training sessions relating to reported content. It was filmed in the company's European headquarters in Dublin.

An urgent meeting with Facebook was sought on behalf of Department of Communications following the programme's airing, which showed trainee moderators being told to leave disturbing content online.

“I have sought an urgent meeting with Facebook management and this meeting is taking place here in New York on Thursday, July 19th," Naughten stated on Wednesday.

“The programme raises serious questions for the company in respect of the manner in which it handles reports of harmful or illegal content; the internal procedures it has in place to moderate harmful or illegal content, and, the systems the company has in place to report instances of abuse, suspected abuse or other illegal activity to the appropriate authorities, including An Garda Síochána. ”

Among the harmful content shown was a meme suggesting a girl whose “first crush is a little negro boy” should have her head held under water. This image was left on the site despite numerous complaints.

Facebook has since removed the content in the wake of Channel 4's revelations, agreeing that the image does violate their rules on hate speech, and promised an internal review to prevent it from happening again.

Advertisement

Minister Naughton released a statement on Wednesday after the programme was aired.

"I am attending the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York this week, however, I am aware of the contents of the Channel 4 programme and I am deeply concerned," the statement read.

"The programme which was broadcast raises serious questions for the company in respect of the manner in which it handles reports of harmful or illegal content carried on its platform; the internal procedures it has in place to moderate harmful or illegal content on its platform; and the systems the company has in place to report instances of abuse, suspected abuse or other illegal activity to the appropriate authorities, including An Garda Síochána.

"Clearly Facebook has failed to meet the standards the public rightly expects of it. I have sought an urgent meeting with Facebook management and this meeting is taking place here in New York on Thursday 19 July."

Minister Naughten is currently attending the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York.

Advertisement

Richard Allan, Vice President of Global Policy for Facebook, apologised following the investigation.

"We're one of the most heavily scrutinised companies in the world - and that's right," said Allan.

"We have a lot of reach to people in many different countries. It's right that we're held to high standards. We also hold ourselves to high standards.

"You've identified some areas where we've failed, and I'm here today to apologise for those failings and make it clear that we do recognise that they were weaknesses, that we should not be in this position.

Advertisement

"All I can say is that we are committed, wherever failings are brought to our attention, to taking them seriously, to addressing them, and to trying to make sure that we do better in future."

The programme's airing has led to renewed calls for greater regulation of internet service providers as well as the urgent appointment of a digital safety commissioner and for Facebook management to explain its current policy.