Facebook chief warned of need to protect children online

Protecting children online has been raised as an issue of critical importance with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg by Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton.

Deputy Naughton, chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, met Mr Zuckerberg in Dublin and said she will wait and see what actions are taken by the social media giant.

“It was a positive meeting. I questioned him on child protection – this is a major priority that I am constantly working on. I warned about the risks to children of all ages because of the advancements of technology and the way in which social media interacts with all sections of society.” she said.

“Mr Zuckerberg told me that Facebook are working proactively on this issue. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and we will see what measures are implemented or what necessary actions we, as legislators, need to take.”

On the issue of age verification, which experts indicate is one of the vital ways protecting children online, Deputy Naughton told Mr Zuckerberg that people or children should not have to provide biometric data or their PPS numbers to Facebook.

“What I did say to Mr Zuckerberg was that there were various ways that people can prove their age. We need to find a way to verify age without having to share sensitive data directly with Facebook or any other social media platform.

“My concern in this area is due to paedophiles online masquerading as young people and preying on and grooming children.

“I asked Mr Zuckerberg to put his words at the weekend into action and engage with the International Grand Committee when it meets in Dublin in November and he has agreed to consider my request,” she said.

The International Grand Committee is a meeting of parliamentarians from throughout the world which considers matters related to social media regulation.

Deputy Naughton said that he also indicated that he wants the GDPR framework to be adopted worldwide as he felt it was a balanced framework.

“That is to be welcomed. We also discussed the forthcoming Government legislation, the Online Safety Act, which was launched as a result of the work of the Oireachtas Communications Committee.

“I also took the opportunity to discuss with Mr Zuckerberg the historic links between Menlo, Galway, and Menlo Park, California, where the Facebook HQ is based,” she said.


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