Meta and TikTok explain response to Dublin riots and misinformation

Dublin city centre incident Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Social media companies have explained their reaction to the Dublin riots that resulted in millions of euro worth of damage to public infrastructure.

Tanaiste Micheal Martin said in the aftermath of the riots that he was concerned at the “rapid mobilisation of so many people via social media platforms”.

Dublin-headquartered companies Meta, TikTok and Google appeared before the Oireachtas media committee to discuss disinformation, media literacy and the response to the disorder in Dublin city that made headlines internationally.

Members of the committee criticised social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, for not appearing before the committee.

Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster said during the committee that their non-attendance was partly because of “ongoing legal proceedings” and asked for clarity on what that referred to.

“I don’t think that’s good enough,” she said.

Dualta O Broin, head of public policy of Meta in Ireland, told the committee the company had taken “significant” steps to tackle false information, and had removed 1,000 pieces of misinformation from Facebook in the first half of this year.

He said they have partnered with 26 factcheckers across the EU, and that “debunking” labels have been applied to 1.1 million posts on Facebook originating in Ireland in the first half of this year.

He said that virality was identified as a problem for its messaging app WhatsApp, but that as it was an encrypted messaging service, it could not do anything about a post unless it was reported.

Mr O Broin said that Facebook got in contact with the gardai when the Dublin riots unfolded, and the purpose of that was to establish what was happening.

He said that there was a large team across the country engaging that evening to ensure that “decisions were being made quickly and accurately” on the posts on its platforms.

Ryan Meade, Google’s government affairs and public policy manager in Ireland, said the company was “committed to fighting the spread of misinformation online”.

He said that “helping people sort facts from fiction has never been more important, something we saw most recently during the disturbing events in Dublin”.

He said that both the knife attack that took place on Parnell Square East and the Dublin riots were monitored by Google to see if incitement to hatred or dangerous disinformation was created in response, but he said that this was not seen on its platforms on “the first day”.

He said Google subsequently had discussions with Ireland’s new media regulator Coimisiun na Mean about the steps it was taking.

“During incidents such as these, we focus not only on tackling harmful or illegal content, but also ensuring our systems prioritise connecting users with high-quality news from authoritative sources.”

Susan Moss, head of public policy for TikTok Ireland, said it activated its crisis management protocols in response to the Dublin riots in order to prevent the spread of misinformation.

Ms Moss said that there were 25 individual claims or “stories” circulating on TikTok that day, giving the example of one that claimed the military was moving into O’Connell Street.

She said that content that was false was removed from being recommended to other users, and said that TikTok’s response was “very fast moving” and “really confident”.

She said that “disinformation is not a new problem, but the internet provides a new avenue to an old challenge”.

“We treat disinformation with the utmost seriousness and we are committed to preventing its spread, while elevating authoritative information and investing in media literacy to help build resilience in our community.”

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