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Facebook wants watchdog to decide on content it publishes
Pic: RollingNews.ie

12 Feb 2021 / technology Print

Facebook wants watchdog to rule on published content

Facebook’s head of public policy in Ireland has said that proper oversight and regulation of content, at scale, is a major challenge for the social media giant. 

Dualta O Broin said yesterday (11 February) that  the proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill would establish a regulator on an EU-wide basis for all user-generated video content.

“We’ve been calling for content regulation for a number of years,” he said.

Allowed

“We’ve been saying that it shouldn’t be up to companies such as ourselves to be alone in deciding what should and shouldn’t be allowed on the platform,” the Facebook head of public policy told a webinar hosted by the Future of Media Commission.

O Broin was formerly an assistant principal in the broadcasting and media division at the Department of Communications, where he was responsible for media mergers and plurality, before going to work for Facebook in May 2019.

Any media commission should be properly resourced to look across the entire media landscape to build evidence-based policy-making, O Broin told the webinar.

“We are an advertising company,” O Broin said, when asked about the impact the Facebook business model has on society and collapsing news organisation revenues.

“I don’t think we make any secret about that, and I apologise for leaving it out my presentation.

“It’s the idea that we’re anti-competitive and that we’re hoovering up all of this advertising revenue. There is nothing that guarantees that our position where we are will continue."

Evolution

“How we address that is we constantly innovate and build new tools; some of them fall flat on their face and some of them succeed. We’re constantly in that state of evolution,” O Broin said. 

The tech giant does not “push or pull” media organisations to put their content on the site, OBroin said. 

Media organisations post news stories on Facebook in order to increase readership and build new audiences, he said.

“We enable organisations of all sizes to post links that raise awareness of their brands and drive monetisable traffic to their websites, all free of charge,” the lobbyist told the webinar.

O Broin added that there was a widely recognised need for new business models and revenue streams for media.

The webinar heard that 80% of online advertising revenue in Ireland now goes to either Facebook or Google.

Professor Colleen Murrell of DCU told the webinar: “We cannot be complacent about the sustainability of our news provision ecosystem, and the fragility of the funding model that underpins the provision of indigenous news in Ireland.”

Eroded

She pointed out that traditional revenue sources for news media had been eroded, and sustainable new ones had yet to emerge. 

Only 12% of consumers are willing to pay for news, Prof Murrell added.

Australian politicians are very serious in their intent to make Google and Facebook pay for linking to, and displaying, news media content, she said.

Prof Murrell asked whether tech giants should be taxed more fairly in this country in order to subsidise indigenous Irish media, and also to finance new media tech companies. 

Scrutiny

Facebook is facing scrutiny in a number of countries about its hegemony over the media landscape, Murrell said. 

“People deserve access to trustworthy news, in the public interest,” she said, adding that COVID-19 had given spine to this weighty issue. 

Murrell added that a strict new code in Australia would lead to a fairer negotiations between big tech and media, because otherwise there was no incentive for proper remuneration to be given for the news content that is provided. 

O Broin said that Facebook was committed to finding ways to support journalism.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland