Senator calls on social media companies to show corporate responsibility in dealing with online abuse

Senator Lorraine Higgins has called on social media companies to “stop powder puff PR and show some corporate social responsibility to their users”.

Sen Higgins was reacting to the growth of online abuse and threats, raised at the AGSI conference this week, which Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has committed to investigating.

Sen Higgins has repeatedly been subjected to abusive messages on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, culminating in a recent Garda sweep of her home following a death threat.

“Adults and children alike the length and breadth of this country have been exposed to sustained and sometimes orchestrated campaigns of abuse online which has been allowed fester because of the lack of clear legislation in this area,” Sen Higgins said in the Seanad this week.

“In my experience, social media companies have shirked their responsibilities completely when it comes to providing a duty of care to their users,” she added. “This has been made abundantly clear to me in recent days, because only last week I wrote to Twitter and Facebook as a result of the inordinate number of messages I received from people who have been subjected to online abuse, and I asked these social media companies to confirm how many complaints they have received, the length of time they take to investigate them, [and] how many they have referred to the Garda authorities.

“To date they have either failed, refused, and or neglected to provide me with this information. Their reluctance to acknowledge any duty of care to their users is quite simply baffling.

“Despite them having the benefit of a favourable tax rate I think it’s about time they showed some corporate social responsibility and at the very least respond to specific questions asked by me and quit their powder puff PR,” Sen Higgins concluded.

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