Social media reps before Oireachtas committee

Ireland is no different from other European countries in relation to the level of abusive behaviour on Facebook, it emerged at an Oireachtas communications committee meeting yesterday.

Facebook’s European safety director, Patricia Cartes, said Irish user behaviour was very similar to other countries.

“We don’t see a massive difference between Ireland and other countries, especially in Europe where most countries have similar patterns of behaviour,” she said.

Facebook’s director of policy, Simon Milner, said the social network had 1bn active users and about 5m actions were taken on the social media platform every day. Actions ranged from “liking” something to posting or commenting on a post or sharing links.

“Most of that activity is entirely wholesome, innocuous, and life-enhancing in many ways,” he told the committee, which met for a second day to discuss abuse of social media and cyberbullying.

Mr Milner said Facebook had a different approach to anonymity to Twitter in that the “real identify” principle went right across the social network.

He said there were various ways that users could control what they posted on a site, who could read it, as well as procedures for pursuing a complaint.

He said a “substantial” number of Facebook staff were members of the firm’s “user operations” team but he could not say how many were involved in safety.

Ms Cartes said Facebook considered removing an account when the abuse was very severe, she said, but generally found users reacted well to “educational checkpoints” and modified their behaviour.

“The number of accounts removed might not be as informative as you want them to be, it was more interesting to see the number of users brought back into compliance over time,” she said, stopping short of being specific.

Twitter’s director of public policy for Europe, Sinéad McSweeney, said Twitter allowed anonymity because it gave a chance to take part in debates to people who would not otherwise do so.

She said Twitter co-operated with law enforcement agencies if there was a criminal offence, while people had recourse to the courts in civil matters.

She said Twitter now had 200m active users worldwide with 1bn tweets sent every two-and- a-half days.

About 60% of people on the platform are actively involved.

Asked for statistics on the number of members blocked, Ms McSweeney said she did not have a breakdown on the statistics and would have to check if they were available on Twitter.

On the issue of bullying, she said her advice to parents was to get to know the tracks and channels that their children were using.

She was the mother of a little boy and only last week signed up to a course so that she would know what he was up to on the internet when he got older. “As parents we have to stay in touch with this technology.”

The committee is to visit Facebook’s European headquarters in Dublin before completing its report.

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