Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
John McGahon (Fine Gael)
The regulation of social media is a topic I have been talking about for a couple of months. Social media have become the Wild West and can no longer continue to be so. The train has already left the station in terms of governments around the world starting to regulate this. We saw this under the Trump Administration and it will be continued under the Biden Administration. I refer to the real need to repeal section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the United States, which became one of the first ever Internet Acts when it was put forward in 1996. The importance of section 230 is that it is the section behind which all big tech companies are hiding to classify themselves as platforms and not publishers. Therein lies the difference. They need to be treated as publishers that are responsible for the content on their sites. They have already started to do this with the recent banning of Donald Trump, although they were late in doing so. Facebook is now treating itself as an editor and publisher. It is doing this in theory but not in name. Equally, we see at a European level the Digital Services Act, DSA, coming down the track too, so the train has left the station. The regulation of social media will happen, but I would really appreciate it if the Minister could come before the House to outline the Government's plans to try to work on this.
Finally, the intimidatory tactics put forward by Facebook towards the Australian Government and the banning of reliable news serve only to open up a vacuum that can be filled by conspiracy theories and fake news. I really hope the Australian Government stands up to Facebook on that.