New social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, are expected to generate €11.5bn (£8.7bn) of revenue by 2020, according to the Irish government’s new Strategic Investment Strategy.
While there are many reasons why this will be a tough challenge, one of the biggest concerns is the lack of a clear and uniform set of rules around what constitutes acceptable behaviour online.
In the UK, Facebook has already been accused of promoting hate speech and has faced backlash for banning accounts that were linked to terrorist activity.
While the US has been slow to embrace social media as a tool for political dissent, the Irish Government is expected to follow suit with an ambitious plan to create a national online safety platform.
The strategy outlines the government’s strategy for creating a national social media safety network, which it says will be responsible for setting up a national framework for regulating and policing social media content.
The framework is expected by the end of the year and will include the development of guidelines for social media sites, rules for content owners, and standards for their operations.
However, while there is a clear vision of what social media should look like, the Government has yet to set out concrete policies.
This has prompted some to question whether the Government is simply following the lead of the US, which has been forced to overhaul its social media policies following the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, last year.
The Irish Government has so far focused on creating guidelines for the use of social media for political discourse, but has yet announced how it will tackle other forms of extremism.
While some social media outlets have already been criticised for engaging in hateful speech, there is no clear consensus as to what constitutes “hate speech”.
The Government has been criticised by human rights organisations for failing to include any specific criteria for banning such content, or for providing a clear framework for the regulation of the platforms.
The Government will need to make some changes in its approach if it is to have any hope of successfully implementing the strategy.
A recent survey of social networking users conducted by research firm IDC, which analysed data from more than 700,000 Facebook users, found that only 7% of those surveyed said they had been the target of “any kind of harassment or hate speech” on social media.
The same survey found that 7% said they were the target in at least one “direct or indirect” way, and 15% said their identity had been used to target them online.
A majority (52%) of respondents said they believed hate speech was a “significant problem” for Irish social media users.
However many people, such to the point where they felt they had no option but to leave the platform, believe that social media is a tool that is used to “build community” and that “if you use it you’re a member of the community”.
In the wake of the terrorist attack in Paris, Facebook introduced new rules to tackle hate speech, with a list of “acceptable” posts now required to be removed by the site.
But the Government’s strategy to create the national platform will not be able to take account of the differing social media standards across the EU.
This is due to the fact that, although EU rules prohibit hate speech in the context of “political discussion”, there is also a blanket prohibition on hate speech on all platforms.
This makes it difficult to apply rules to different platforms to ensure that content from all platforms is equally policed.
In a country where hate speech is still widespread, it is imperative that the Government can create a clear, uniform and coherent framework for social networks to operate in Ireland.
In an interview with RTÉ Radio One, Deputy Minister for Social Media David Fitzgerald, said that the country is in a “new and evolving world” and must create a framework that is “fair and effective”.
He said that a social media platform’s mission must be to “provide people with information, entertainment, education and communication tools”.