Google, Facebook, and Twitter reject suggestions they should be held to same standards as media publishers

Google, Facebook, and Twitter reject suggestions they should be held to same standards as media publishers

Internet giants Google, Facebook, and Twitter have rejected suggestions they should be held to the same standards as media publishers and broadcasters, and denied profiting from graphic material such as the live-streamed shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

The companies appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality to discuss how to tackle online harassment and harmful communications.

Fine Gael TD Colm Brophy told the companies that he believes they should have the same liabilities as publishers when it comes to the regulation of harmful or offensive content.

“You've more impact on the world today than probably all of the broadcast media and all the print media combined together. And yet, for the purposes of making profits, you want to have no obligations to that, apart from to say "we'll take it down" when the damage is done,” he said.

Ryan Meade, Google Ireland’s government affairs and policy manager, said TDs need to consider the impact on the open internet if they wish to apply the same rules to internet companies as they do to publishers.

“For example on YouTube, there are hundreds of hours of video material uploaded to our services every minute. If we were to be considered publishers, each of those would have to be reviewed before they appeared on the platform. Now, it will be open to legislators to say that is a requirement. But fundamentally, it would alter the availability that service,” he said.

“Just because we don't consider it appropriate that the regulation should be the same for publishers as for platforms, doesn't mean the platforms can be regulated,” he said.

Karen White, Director of Public Policy at Twitter said the platform does not consider itself a publisher.

Twitter is a live public service, we don't exert editorial control over any of the user-generated content that we would see on our service, but that's not to say we don't take our responsibilities to the safety of our users very, very seriously.

She pointed to Twitter’s removal of abuse, illegal material and terrorist-related content as examples of the work it does to tackle harmful content.

However Mr Brophy said this only strengthens the argument that Twitter is a publisher.

“That's where you blur your own line every single time with this, because you make editorial content judgments every time you do one of those in the same way that a newspaper or a broadcast organisation does when it transmits. And yet, you say you're not a publisher,” he said.

Asked the same question, Dualta Ó Broin, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy said: “We provide a platform for over two billion people so that they can put their views on the internet, so we wouldn't consider ourselves a publisher for user content”.

Mr Brophy said social media features such as live streaming has been used to broadcast the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and that companies are generating profits from these same features.

“I just can't understand morally, how people are comfortable with defending not having a liability for that,” he said.

Mr Ó Broin said he does not accept the premise that Facebook profits from the live streaming of violent incidents on its platform.

“In actual fact, it would be the opposite, and we hear it all the time from both our advertisers and from our users, they do not want this type of material on their platform, and the advertisers don't want their advertising anywhere near this type of content. And we are extremely serious about removing it,” he said.

More on this topic

Law Society: Offensive WhatsApp group 'did not contain references to any female students'Law Society: Offensive WhatsApp group 'did not contain references to any female students'

Law Society 'appalled' by students' 'highly offensive' posts about female trainee solicitorsLaw Society 'appalled' by students' 'highly offensive' posts about female trainee solicitors

Instagram begins rolling out dark modeInstagram begins rolling out dark mode

Instagram launches messaging app Threads to challenge SnapchatInstagram launches messaging app Threads to challenge Snapchat


More in this Section

First longer Luas tram up and running on Green LineFirst longer Luas tram up and running on Green Line

Beef talks paused due to protestorsBeef talks paused due to protestors

Compensating victims of historic abuse in the North ‘remains a big priority’Compensating victims of historic abuse in the North ‘remains a big priority’

Don't succumb to the narrative of fear: Priest hits out at growing opposition to asylum seekersDon't succumb to the narrative of fear: Priest hits out at growing opposition to asylum seekers


Lifestyle

My sister Gabriella always says that during sibling whispers all I ever wanted was to be on stage.This Much I Know: Man of many talents Mike Hanrahan

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers guidance to a woman whose husband is controlling and belittling her.Ask a counsellor: ‘My husband is so controlling – what do I do?’

Peter Dowdall branches out to take a look at the mountain ash or rowan.Rowan berries show us how nature is stocking its larder for winter

More From The Irish Examiner