Social-media firms refused to commit to improving age-verification of users, Minister says

Undertaking to implement more robust age-verification measures ‘not forthcoming at present’ following ‘robust’ meeting, Norma Foley says

Various social-media firms based in Ireland refused to give an undertaking to facilitate age-verification mechanisms on their respective platforms in a round-table meeting with the Government on Wednesday morning, the Minister for Education has said.

Speaking to reporters at Government Buildings on Wednesday afternoon, Norma Foley said she had raised the subject of age verification with representatives for various platforms at the “constructive” and “robust” meeting, given that many children under the age of 13 are gaining access to social-media sites.

However, an undertaking to implement more robust age-verification measures “was not forthcoming at present”, she said.

“I did seek an undertaking that they would facilitate age verification, whatever form that might take – I’m not prescriptive on the mechanism, but that we would have a clear age verification because we know that children are well able to jump over that particular requirement,” she said.


The meeting was attended by representatives for Meta – which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – TikTok, Google, Microsoft, as well as Three Ireland, Vodafone, Tesco and Ibec. Representatives for X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter, were invited but did not attend.

She said the social-media firms had raised concerns over privacy in relation to existing age-verification methods, such as providing identification documents or a “live selfie”.

Ms Foley also said technology companies represented at the meeting had said they would not “support in principle” her department’s position “to support parents to hold off on purchasing smartphones for children while they’re at primary school”.

The Minister said that in refusing to give an undertaking, telecommunication company representatives present said such a choice was “a parent’s prerogative”.

Ms Foley noted that, ultimately, Commisúin na Meain had “ultimate responsibility” for the regulation of social-media companies. She stressed that while she did not want to “pre-empt” the work of the commission, she said she would hope for “tighter controls on age verification”.

“We all know without exception that there are young people accessing content under 13 that they should not be accessing.”

She said representatives had committed to engaging with the Government on an ongoing basis on the outlined issues.

Other subjects raised at the meeting included recommendation algorithms and AI, she said.

“I acknowledged the wonderful gift that technology is, the wonderful gift that social media is, but with the enormous power that they have in that field comes enormous responsibility and a duty of care,” Ms Foley said. “That’s what I wanted to highlight today, the duty of care.”

Ms Foley has previously stated that a more rigorous age-verification process is required for young people purchasing smartphones and accessing social media apps.

Last November, the Minister dissuaded people from buying smartphones for children as gifts, and said there was evidence that buying smartphones for children was not in the interest of their health and wellbeing.

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Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher

Fiachra Gallagher is an Irish Times journalist