Advertisements submitted to Facebook, TikTok and YouTube containing extreme and violent hate against the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland were almost all approved for publication by the platforms, according to human rights group Global Witness.
Ten ads were submitted to each of the three platforms containing hateful language, including some based on real life examples reported by LGBTQ+ groups in Ireland. They included comparing LGBTQ+ people to “paedophiles”, a call to “burn all gays” and for the “trans lobby” to be “killed”.
Both YouTube and TikTok approved every ad for publication, while Facebook rejected just two. All three platforms accepted the “burn all gays” ad, as well as one encouraging men to use violence against transgender women. All of the ads were removed before publication and none went live.
Facebook and Google’s European headquarters are based in Ireland and fall under the jurisdiction of the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). The Government is currently in the process of appointing two new commissioners to the body.
Global Witness digital threats campaign leader Naomi Hirst said Irish authorities have a responsibility to hold platforms accountable.
“We know all too well that when hate is allowed to spread online, it doesn’t take long to spill over into the real world,” she said. “Ireland prides itself on its open and inclusive attitudes but it urgently needs to get a grip on the dark underbelly of hatred that flourishes online.
“With big tech firms like Facebook and Google basing their European HQs in Dublin, Ireland has a unique responsibility to hold platforms that are failing to stem the spread of hate accountable. In appointing two new data protection commissioners, Ireland has an opportunity to put LGBTQ+ people, their safety, dignity, and rights above Silicon Valley profits – it must take it.”
In a statement, Meta, which owns Facebook, said it continues to make improvements to its system for detecting harmful content.
“Hate speech has no place on our platforms, and these types of ads should not be approved,” it said. “That said, these ads never went live, and our ads review process has several layers of analysis and detection, both before and after an ad goes live. We continue to improve how we detect violating ads and behaviour and make changes based on trends in the ads ecosystem.”
TikTok said hate speech “has no place” on the platform. “Our advertising policies, alongside our community guidelines, prohibit ad content that contains hate speech or hateful behaviour,” it said. “Ad content passes through multiple levels of verification before receiving approval, and we remove violative content. We regularly review and improve our enforcement strategies.”
Google did not respond to a request for comment.
Separately, Minister for Media Catherine Martin signed a ministerial order to establish Coimisiún na Meán on a statutory basis with effect from March 15th, as well as an order to commence sections of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022.
The move will allow Coimisiún na Meán to begin the work of establishing a new regulatory framework for online safety and to update the regulatory framework for broadcasting and video on-demand services.
“Today marks another milestone in our modernisation of the regulation of the media and digital services in Ireland,” said Ms Martin. “In the coming years, Coimisiún na Meán will play a vital role as both a regulatory body and media development agency.
“The ministerial orders I have signed today will not only formally establish Coimisiún na Meán as a statutory body, but will confer it with the powers necessary to begin the work of protecting people in Ireland as we interact with one another in the online world.”