Naughten warns Facebook of huge fines over content

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has warned Facebook chiefs they will be hit with multi-million euro fines if they continue to breach online safety rules.

Mr Naughten issued the threat in a high-level meeting with Facebook’s head of public policy in Ireland, Niamh Sweeney, and the social media company’s Dublin bosses in New York last night. This is despite the fact that this could cost Ireland hundreds of jobs with Facebook.

On Tuesday, a Channel Four investigation revealed that Facebook staff were allowing dangerous, illegal, and damaging videos and messages to remain on the site despite the fact they knew they were breaching online safety rules.

The programme revealed that, in some cases, the reason why the posts were not removed was because they were generating significant online attention which was, as a result, making money for the company.

Speaking after he described the revelations as shocking and disturbing at a special cabinet meeting in Derrynane, Co Kerry, on Wednesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar warned Facebook that it faces multi-million euro fines based on its Irish advertising revenue if the situation continues.

And, in a bid to underline the message, Mr Naughten last night repeated the warning in a meeting in New York, where he was, until yesterday, attending an unrelated UN event.

It is understood that, at a meeting which began at 9pm last night, Mr Naughten told Ms Sweeney and the social media company’s Dublin-based bosses that the revelations uncovered by the Dispatches programme must not be repeated.

While acknowledging that Facebook is a key employer in Ireland and is a central plank in the country’s IT hub hopes, Mr Naughten is believed to have specifically told officials of Mr Varadkar’s comments and that the remark is not an empty threat. Mr Naughten said that if no action is taken he believes anyone with concerns about wrongdoing involving “disturbing” posts should immediately contact gardaí or other authorities.

It is understood Facebook told Mr Naughten it is moving to address what it claims were isolated issues.


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