Facebook’s Offensive Material Blasted As ‘The Cocaine Which Attracts Users’

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Social media giant Facebook defended how it moderates offensive material before the Oireachtas Communications Committee today.

It was responding to the issues highlighted in a Channel 4 documentary that was broadcast in July and actions that have been implemented in response to the programme.

Facebook denied turning a blind eye to disturbing material claiming it would damage their revenue through advertising, and they have clear community standards.

However, Fianna Fáil Deputy Timmy Dooley says the company’s Vice President’s motto in a 2016 memo entitled “the ugly” sets out why anything that achieves growth for Facebook is defacto good.

“Material – even if it is ugly and it’s disturbing, and it’s bullying and it’s death and destruction and bullying of children – it’s de facto good because, effectively, it’s the cocaine which attracts users to this material.

“And you, in one of these paragraphs, suggest that that material would be off-putting to people and that would be damaging to you. I put it to you that it is quite the opposite.”

A senior staff member of Facebook has apologised to the committee after disturbing content was allowed to remain on the social media giant.

Niamh Sweeney, head of public policy of Facebook Ireland, has told the committee that Facebook has removed the content including a video of a toddler being assaulted by an adult.

It emerged in the undercover investigation that Facebook moderators were instructed not to remove extreme, abusive or graphic content from the platform even when it violated the company’s guidelines.

This included violent videos involving assaults on children, racially charged hate speech and images of self-harm among under-age users.

Ms. Sweeney said she and her colleagues were “upset” by what came to light in the programme.

“Dispatches identified some areas where we have failed. “We should not be in this position and we want to reassure you that whenever failings are brought to our attention, we are committed to taking them seriously, addressing them in as swift and comprehensive a manner as possible.”