Facebook execs to face Oireachtas committee

Executives from Facebook will appear before an Oireachtas committee later today to consider the use of social media and its potential influence on previous and future elections and referenda.

The Data Protection Commissioner (DPC), Helen Dixon, will also give evidence to the Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

The appearance of the witnesses comes amid controversy about the harvesting of Facebook users data by a third party app and the improper passing of that information to UK political consultancy Cambridge Analytica.

The session will also see detailed scrutiny of the Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017, which aims to ban the use of automated social media accounts to manipulate online political debates and influence campaigns.

If passed by the Oireachtas the proposed legislation, drafted by Fianna Fail TD James Lawless, would also result in greater transparency on the funding sources of online political advertising.

Facebook Vice President of Global Policy, Joel Kaplan, and Head of Public Policy at Facebook Ireland, Niamh Sweeney, will represent the social network at the hearing.

“There has been considerable debate in recent years on the role social media has played in elections and political campaigns,” Committee Chair Hildegarde Naughton said in a statement ahead of the event.

“Social media has revolutionised and changed the nature of political campaigning globally.”

“Therefore, it is important that we analyse and understand the impact social media has had on the democratic process and on elections and referenda in the past and how it may impact on the democratic process in the future.”