Donegal TD Deputy Pringle challenges tech giants

Claims they fail to protect users from online harassment

Donegal TD Deputy Pringle challenges tech giants

Independent Donegal TD, Thomas Pringle

Recently appointed member of the Dáil Committee on Justice and Equality, independent Donegal TD, Thomas Pringle, confronted representatives of Facebook, Google and Twitter on online harassment and the need for increased regulation for the tech industry.

In response to continuous pushback from multinational tech companies on efforts to increase regulation, Deputy Pringle challenged Facebook on the legal loophole which allows them to avoid liability for content published on their site.

In the committee, Deputy Pringle highlighted the “contradiction whereby Facebook claims to be a publisher when it suits them in court, but when it comes to abusive posts, they categorically deny being a publisher.”

He focused on incomplete statistics in Twitter’s transparency reports, stating that “when internet companies boast about the percentage of abusive posts that they remove, we need to ask what figures these percentages relate to. Tech companies are giving an impression that they are being more effective in protecting users from abusive content than they actually are.”

“The reason that the removal rates for terrorism and child sexual abuse material are much higher than other forms of abusive content, is because it is a legal requirement to do so – as they are criminal offences. The removal rate for bullying is much lower because there is nobody looking over your shoulder – there are no real consequences for you in this regard.

“I am concerned that Facebook values the type of content it reviews and removes depending on the amount of followers that somebody has. The 2018 Channel 4 Documentary Inside Facebook: Secrets of the Social Network reported that pages from an English Nazi which violated Facebook’s own rules were kept up because they had a lot of followers, so therefore there was a lot of revenue to be generated from that.”

Deputy Pringle also confronted Facebook’s treatment of outsourced workers.

“In Ireland, content moderators earn between €25,000 and €30,000 per year, compared to an average Facebook wage of €154,000 in Dublin. In Manila, your employees earn just $2.50 a day. This is a disgrace.”

“As part of the Justice and Equality Committee I will be keeping an eye on the actions of tech multinational companies in Ireland. I will continue to put pressure on Fine Gael to regulate appropriately in order to make the internet a safer place for everybody,” he said.

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