Social media firms resist calls to require users to provide ID

Social Media Firms Resist Calls To Require Users To Provide Id
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James Ward, PA

Social media companies have resisted calls to require users to prove their identity before setting up an account.

Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and TikTok appeared before the Oireachtas Media Committee on Wednesday to outline their views on the forthcoming Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.


A number of TDs and Senators raised concerns about the levels of abuse being directed at politicians and journalists on the platforms.

Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne asked the social media giants if a requirement for users to identify themselves when setting up an account would help clamp down on “anonymous bots”.

Ronan Costello, representing Twitter, said the company responds to abusive content from anonymous accounts in the same way as genuine ones.



He said: “The key thing I would say here is that pseudonymity is often conflated with abuse. It is not a precursor or a prerequisite to people being abusive online.


“From a Twitter point of view, more specifically, it’s not a shield against our rules.

“For the purpose of enforcing our policies, Twitter’s approach to real accounts and pseudonymous accounts is exactly the same.

“Our focus is on how the account is behaving, not on the identity that the account may have. Although, that is a data point that we can take into consideration.”

Mr Costello said Twitter can see if an account that has been flagged as abusive is linked to other accounts.


He said the company would expand on its verification process in the months ahead.

Facebook’s head of public policy, Dualta Ó Broin, said there is a “balance to be struck” on anonymity.

He added: “The approach that we take is we have a real name policy. And if a user or anyone has any doubt around, you know, whether somebody is or isn’t who they say they are, they can report to us and we will verify the identity of the individual.”

TikTok’s Theo Bertram said anonymous profiles are less of a problem on the platform, which is largely video-based.


He said accountability is more important than whether accounts are anonymous.

Mr Costello said the abuse of journalists on Twitter is a challenge, not just in Ireland, but internationally.

He added: “It’s a challenge because those individuals are in high-profile positions, and they’re putting content out there that gets a reaction and some of that reaction is absolutely unacceptable.

“We want to be as proactive as possible, to reduce the burden on politicians and journalists to be the ones that feel like they have to reach out to us, before something is done about that.”

Mr O Broin said Facebook does not have “a strict turnaround time” on removing harmful or abusive content, but the goal is to get to it “as quickly as possible”.

Mr Bertram said the length of time such content stays online is an important factor for TikTok.

“We had 89 million pieces of content removed in the last six months of last year,” he said.

“All of that content that we removed, which makes up about 1 per cent of all the content uploaded, 92.4 per cent was removed before a user reported it.

“I think length of time is important, I think it’s right that you hold our feet to the fire on that.

“But I also think, for our platform at least, the number of views is probably more significant.

“A video that stays online for a few hours but is only seen by a small number of people is probably less impactful than a video that is online for a very short period of time but is seen by more.”

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