Irish government must hold Big Tech to account 

23rd February 2023 – Ads submitted to Facebook, TikTok and YouTube containing extreme violent hate against the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland were almost all approved for publication by the platforms, according to a new test carried out by Global Witness.

Ten ads were submitted to each of the three platforms (all were removed before being published), containing vicious and 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 for publication every single one of the ten ads, whilst Facebook only rejected two. All three platforms accepted the “burn all gays” ad, as well as one encouraging men to use violence against transgender women.

Facebook and Google’s European headquarters are based in Ireland and fall under the jurisdiction of the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC). However, the DPC has been accused of failing to enforce European data protection law and of prioritising its relationship with Silicon Valley over the safety and dignity of millions. 

Naomi Hirst, Digital Threats Campaign Leader, at Global Witness said:

“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."

"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.”

The European Data Protection Board – the EU’s independent body which advises on data protection rules - recently stepped in to overrule a draft decision by the Irish DPC that would have allowed Facebook to force users to accept targeted ads.

The Irish government is in the process of appointing two new Commissioners; it is critical that the candidates have both the mandate to reform the Commission and the integrity to hold Big Tech to account.

In response to Global Witness’ investigation, a Meta spokesperson said:

Hate speech has no place on our platforms, and these types of ads should not be approved. 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 behavior and make changes based on trends in the ads ecosystem.”

A spokesperson for TikTok said:

Hate has no place on TikTok. Our advertising policies, alongside our Community Guidelines, prohibit ad content that contains hate speech or hateful behaviour. 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 were shown the results of the investigation on YouTube but did not respond to a request for comment.