Shropshire Star

Varadkar criticises mainstream media for ‘advertising harmful content’ online

Leo Varadkar said social media companies also have responsibilities around ‘harmful content’.

Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that people have searched for harmful content online after it was “advertised” by mainstream media outlets.

Mr Varadkar said mainstream media outlets have responsibilities around their own content and signalling towards harmful content online.

Media outlets regularly publish garda requests which appeal to the public not to share imagery of tragic incidents.

Responding to a question on social media companies in Co Waterford, the Fine Gael leader said: “The traditional mainstream media also has responsibilities too and I think sometimes that’s forgotten.

“It particularly has a responsibility in not signalling, in not advertising in papers and in the regular broadcast media that stuff and harmful content is available online because if you signal it, people go looking for it.”

Later asked if the concern should be more with social media companies hosting harmful content, Mr Varadkar said: “It is.”

His comments come after TikTok uncovered and shut down an operation to influence Irish users and whip up social conflict.

The covert influence operation (CIO) network comprised 72 accounts with a total following of almost 95,000 users.

The video sharing platform’s work to find and remove the accounts was detailed in a report to the European Commission.

The content included views related to nationalism in Ireland, Japan, Russia, and Taiwan.

TikTok is a signatory of an EU code of practice aimed at combatting disinformation and misinformation online.

“You know, the reason why we know about this issue with TikTok is because of the new laws that have been brought in and were shut down and was disclosed.

“And so I think we’re starting to see those new laws and new regulations work.

“We do now have the digital services and the online safety commissioner in operation and I think we’re starting to see some results from that.”

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