Facebook morally bankrupt, says New Zealand privacy commissioner

Facebook morally bankrupt, says New Zealand privacy commissioner

New Zealand’s official privacy watchdog has described Facebook as “morally bankrupt” and suggested his country follow Australia’s lead by making laws that could jail executives over streamed violence such as the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Privacy commissioner John Edwards has been critical of Facebook’s response to a gunman using the platform to livestream some of the slaughter of 50 worshippers and the wounding of 50 more at two mosques on March 15.

Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions

Mr Edwards made his comments after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg recently rejected calls to introduce a delay in his livestreaming service Facebook Live, saying it would interfere with the interactivity of livestreaming.

“Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars who enable genocide (Myanmar), facilitate foreign undermining of democratic institutions,” Mr Edwards posted on Twitter.

Facebook has been criticised for not doing enough to police hate speech in Burma (Myanmar), where a government campaign against minority Rohingya Muslims has been described by the UN as ethnic cleansing.

The platform has also been at the centre of claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential election.

We are deeply committed to strengthening our policies, improving our technology and working with experts to keep Facebook safe

Facebook responded to Mr Edwards’s post with a statement that said its chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had recently shared the policy and technical steps the company was taking to strengthen the rules for using Facebook Live, address hate on Facebook platforms and support the New Zealand community.

“We are deeply committed to strengthening our policies, improving our technology and working with experts to keep Facebook safe,” the statement said.

Mr Edwards, who is tasked with protecting New Zealanders’ personal information according to the country’s Privacy Act, said that governments needed to come together and “force the platforms to find a solution” to the problem of livestreaming of atrocities such as the Christchurch killings, as well as suicides and rapes.

It may be that regulating, as Australia has done just in the last week, would be a good interim way to get their attention and say, 'Unless you can demonstrate the safety of these services, you simply can't use them'

“It may be that regulating, as Australia has done just in the last week, would be a good interim way to get their attention and say, ‘Unless you can demonstrate the safety of these services, you simply can’t use them’,” Mr Edwards told Radio NZ.

Mr Edwards regards himself as an advocate for Christchurch victims who had their right to privacy violated by having their deaths broadcast via Facebook to the world in real time.

His office said the privacy commissioner had taken to making his criticism of Facebook about its lack of livestreaming safeguards public “because he has few other options”.

“Under the current Privacy Act, his office has no penalties it can impose on global tech companies like Facebook,” the commissioner’s office said in a statement.

“His only resort is to publicly name Facebook for not ensuring its livestreaming service is a safe platform which does not compound the original harm caused by the Christchurch killings,” the statement added.

The Australian parliament on Thursday passed some of the most restrictive laws about online communication in the democratic world.

It is now a crime in Australia for social media platforms not to quickly remove “abhorrent violent material”.

The crime would be punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 10.5 million Australian dollars (€6.6m), or 10% of the platform’s annual turnover, whichever is larger.

The Digital Industry Group – an association representing the digital industry in Australia including Facebook, Google and Twitter – said taking down abhorrent content was a “highly complex problem” that required consultation with a range of experts, which the government had not done.

Australia wants to take its law to a Group of 20 countries forum in Japan as a template for holding social media companies to account.

New Zealand’s justice minister Andrew Little said last week his government had also made a commitment to review the role of social media and the obligations of the companies that provide the platforms.

He said he had asked officials to look at the effectiveness of current hate speech laws and whether there were gaps that need to be filled.

Facebook last year disregarded Mr Edwards’s ruling that it had breached the Privacy Act by not releasing information to a New Zealand man who wanted to know what others were saying about him on the social network.

Facebook argued that it was not bound by New Zealand’s Privacy Act because it was based overseas, but later agreed to comply with the local law.

New Zealand’s parliament is amending the Act to give the privacy commissioner more powers and to clarify that offshore companies that hold information about New Zealanders must comply with the Act.

- Press Association

More on this topic

US Air Force warns against prank Facebook call to ‘storm Area 51’US Air Force warns against prank Facebook call to ‘storm Area 51’

Facebook fined $5bn over privacy violationsFacebook fined $5bn over privacy violations

A new way of nurturing nefarious activitiesA new way of nurturing nefarious activities

Facebook cracks down on sensationalist and misleading health contentFacebook cracks down on sensationalist and misleading health content

More in this Section

Ebola outbreak in DR Congo declared a global health emergencyEbola outbreak in DR Congo declared a global health emergency

May urges successor to seek Brexit agreement as fears of no-deal growMay urges successor to seek Brexit agreement as fears of no-deal grow

May warns political discourse going ‘towards much darker place’ in final speech as British PMMay warns political discourse going ‘towards much darker place’ in final speech as British PM

Man convicted of murder of British teenager in GoaMan convicted of murder of British teenager in Goa


Lifestyle

Christy Collard and Robin O’Donovan are parents to six children, but sustainability is still a cornerstone of their busy lives in west Cork.The family that composts together stays together

Ron Howard was happy to let the spirit of Luciano Pavarotti shine through in his documentary on the great tenor, writes Laura Harding.Hitting the right note with new Luciano Pavarotti documentary

Prevention is so much better than cure, says Fiann Ó Nualláin, who offers gardeners timely advice on guarding face and body against those potentially damaging ultra-violet rays this season and beyond.Gardening: Be skincare-savvy for summer

It's never been more important to choose flowers and trees according to their environmental needs, says Peter DowdallIn these times of climate change, choose plants to weather all conditions

More From The Irish Examiner