Facebook CEO quizzed directly on Ronan Hughes blackmail tragedy

Ronan Hughes
Ronan Hughes

The case of a Northern Irish teenager who killed himself after being blackmailed online has been raised directly with Facebook’s boss.

Ronan Hughes, 17 and from Coalisland, died in June 2015 after being duped into sending an intimate picture of himself over the internet, which was then used to blackmail him into sending a ransom.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg

DUP MEP Diane Dodds, speaking to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a European Parliament meeting on Tuesday, said Ronan been a “victim of a false Facebook account from online bullies”.

“But this is only one example,” she said. “I’d like you to tell us today what you’re doing to stop the rise of false Facebook accounts which deliberately target young and vulnerable people?”

She also asked about educating people about internet safety, and what Facebook defines as acceptable content.

A string of others also asked questions of the Facebook boss before the floor was given over to him to address them.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds

DUP MEP Diane Dodds

When he did respond, he did not mention the Ronan Kerr case directly, but said that “hate speech, bullying, terror, violence – all this content has no place on our services”.

However, to tackle it Facebook needs to “upgrade and do a better job of executing our policies”. Bullying is one of his priorities, he said.

At the end of the session Mr Zuckerberg said while there were many questions he had not been able to “specifically answer”, he believed he “was able to address the high-level areas” – and pledged to follow up with the questioners afterwards to deal with the particular issues they had raised.

Afterwards, Mrs Dodds said: “Mr Zuckerberg dealt with issues raised thematically, lacking engagement with the detail of questions, but has committed to Facebook contacting MEPs who contribute directly to answer the more specific points raised.

“I look forward to hearing more on plans to help protect our young people and others who are particularly vulnerable to such abuse or trolling.”

A Romanian man was later sent to prison for his involvement in the Ronan Hughes case.

To contact Childline, ring 0800 1111. To contact the Samaritans, ring 116 123.