Ireland is not Europe’s biggest or most powerful country by any stretch of the imagination – it’s not even what most objective observers would describe as being among the European Union’s influential member-states.
But when it comes to US tech giants – Ireland has been very important – not to mention, extremely useful. The country has allowed these companies to use it as a virtual tax avoidance haven, thus earning the monetary privilege as the location where Google, Facebook, Apple, and others, all chose to base their European headquarters.
It could be fair to say then, that Google may feel like needs to stay in Ireland’s good graces.
And now Germany’s digital rights-focused website Netzpolitik suggests Ireland might be lending itself as the virtual foot in the door of EU policy-making in Brussels.
The report said that Google-owned YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki met with the giant’s “most important European ally” – and that would be Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
The group claims that it obtained documents from the closed-door meeting held last summer, allegedly to discuss, among other things, “YouTube’s content moderation policies.”
Read the documents here.
The meeting reportedly took place in Varadkar’s official residence in Dublin – while Netzpolitik bases its report on documents obtained through a freedom of information request.
Google’s lobbying activity in Ireland – at least according to the German website – has to do with the activity of the president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyden – a German politician who previously announced the Digital Services Act – whose goal is to “moderate” online content.
But, the report said, citing a leaked EC document, “circulating in Brussels – the act is also meant to “regulate against unfair business practices by platforms and perhaps even update liability rules.”
Apparently with this in mind – YouTube’s CEO met with Ireland’s PM on July 24 in Dublin with the goal of informing Irish representatives, as its EU allies, that criticism of YouTube as a platform allowing so-called hate speech was unfounded.
Instead, Wojcicki reportedly assured Varadkar that “hateful speech and censoring of minority voices” was not taking place on YouTube.
“This is achieved through the publication of guidelines to inform the work of moderators, the deployment of moderators to review flagged content; and the development of machine learning to take down content before it is reviewed by officials.”
The report had no information on how Ireland’s leaders might have reacted during the meeting – and neither parties were prepared to comment.
But the article noted that tech giants outsource “overworked and poorly remunerated workers overseas.”
“New EU rules for moderation are likely to result in increased obligations for platforms to moderate content and safeguard free speech, potentially creating millions of euros in additional cost for companies,” Netzpolitik writes.
It’s not clear from the report if this means tech giants will have to outsource better-remunerated workers – or if they’ll just have to hire more of them.