Government talks with web giants on tackling extremism on social media

The Department of Justice has held talks with social media giants in Ireland in relation to countering online radicalisation and extremism, it has emerged.

The department has also cast doubt over the effectiveness of establishing a hi-tech Garda unit to monitor and take down extremist online material.

This follows the publication of a damning report by UK parliamentarians, which accused Facebook, Twitter, and Google of “consciously failing” to combat the use of their sites to promote terrorism.

The three companies, which have their European headquarters in Ireland, have strongly disagreed with the House of Commons report.

The Department of Justice has confirmed to the Irish Examiner that it has had discussions on this issue with the internet corporations.

It said there were no plans to legislate on it and that a purely voluntary approach was being taken.

“The department has had discussions with the relevant companies on this matter,” it said in a statement.

“At this point in time there is no European regulation in this area; the favoured approach being to work with companies to identify possible approaches and solutions.”

The Department of Justice
The Department of Justice

It said Ireland also contributed to discussions on an EU approach to dealing with this issue and was supportive of the EU Commission’s Internet Forum, which had been set up to engage with the companies concerned.

The UK report noted that the EU had developed rules last May on requirements on the three social media giants, and Microsoft, to take down illegal hate speech.

It said this was a “first step” and said these efforts should be replicated to counter online extremism.

It called on the British government to develop and enforce its own measures in relation to this area.

This would be carried out by the Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism internet referral unit, which, it said, should be upgraded into a hi-tech, round-the-clock body to monitor and quickly block sites.

Government talks with web giants on tackling extremism on social media

In response to the need for a similar unit in Ireland, the department said: “The department has noted the calls for round-the-clock monitoring of the internet. However, the volume of online material raises questions about how effective such a mechanism might be.”

It added: “There are already processes in place by which law enforcement agencies can bring unacceptable material to the attention of the relevant companies, notably through Europol’s internet referral unit.”

The department said countering radicalisation and terrorism required both “hard and soft security measures”.

It said online radicalisation was only one issue and that “direct engagement with at-risk communities” was also one.


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