Dealing with global internet firms poses new set of problems, say gardaí

Internet companies are coming under pressure to act more quickly in withdrawing objectionable content.

Gardaí have a memo of understanding agreed with phone service providers, which allows for speedy action when necessary. But it is difficult to replicate this with online providers because they are global companies.

“Part of the problem is that while content is being monitored round the clock, those carrying out the monitoring could be based anywhere in the world and might not respond immediately to a specific complaint,” said one officer.

Even where content has been withdrawn, it can often be replaced quickly by another user, who has copied the post.

Fianna Fáil communications spokesman Timmy Dooley said the streaming on social media of murders being committed must be addressed urgently.

“Recently we have seen footage of a child being murdered in Thailand being still available to view for some 24 hours after the event and that is not acceptable.

“Of course, there are certain logistical difficulties in regulating the activity of a network with almost two billion users worldwide, but the owners of social media platforms need to do more and cannot allow such activities to continue,” Mr Dooley added.

“It seems incredible that a company the size of Facebook, with the resources it has at its disposal, was unable to take down the video stream more quickly.”

Gardaí are currently investigating a series of videos showing an Irish woman’s racist rant against Indian passengers on a Limerick train.

And two months ago Limerick gardaí carried out inquiries into a Facebook claim, which turned out to be false, that a foreign woman had been offering her child for sale on the streets.

A Facebook spokesperson said: “We are transparent about the criteria we require for law enforcement requests and we have streamlined processes in place to help law enforcement submit these requests.”

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