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Facebook and Twitter are offering special support services for TDs and Senators who feel they are the subject of abuse online.

The two social media giants provided briefings to politicians earlier this year with both promising enhanced facilities for reporting harassment and other harmful content.

According to an internal Oireachtas paper, Facebook opened a new reporting channel to which TDs and Senators have direct access.

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They also promised to deliver briefings to politicians focused on “safety and security” for their use of both Facebook and their parent company Meta’s other major platform Instagram.

These seminars would take place in Leinster House and would be carried out on a regular basis to cater for all working there, according to the briefing.

It said: “Facebook to work with the Oireachtas in encouraging Members to use the [name redacted] reporting channel.”

Twitter said they would be carrying out “best practice” training for TDs, Senators, and their staff, with plans for a series of workshops.

A “partner support portal” was also made available to all political parties and groups with the Oireachtas to take a role in helping “expedite responses” to abusive material that was reported.

Twitter said they would “onboard” a centralised Oireachtas account to the portal that would allow for direct access to report abusive or harmful tweets.

The memo said: “This account owner can also act as a primary point of contact between Twitter and the Houses of Oireachtas for escalations.”

Twitter also highlighted two new features that they believed would make the platform less threatening and abusive for TDs and Senators.

The first is an existing feature that prompts people about to post something “harmful or offensive” to reconsider it.

Twitter said when prompted, 34% of people either revised their response or decided not to post, while accounts also became less likely to post abusive tweets in future.

A second “safety mode” the platform is experimenting with “proactively” blocks accounts that appear to be “potentially abusive”.

The Oireachtas memo – prepared in January of this year and released under FOI – said the next steps would be to arrange a series of workshops and briefings with both Facebook and Twitter.

It said: “[We can] also engage with both Twitter and Facebook to ensure members have fast and reliable access to report material they deem inappropriate or threatening.”

Separately, a suggestion that the Oireachtas might act as a “go-between” for when TDs and Senators were the subject of abuse was ruled out.

The briefing paper suggested this could offer a “faster and more consistent point of elevation” for when complaints were made about social media.

However, the Oireachtas were concerned that it would place an “additional burden” on them with the possibility of extra staff being required.

The paper concluded: “In relation to the proposed centralising of Members portals for Facebook and Twitter with the Oireachtas, it is recommended that we explore this in greater detail.”

A spokesman for the Oireachtas said that proposal was not explored any further and that both platforms had taken “direct responsibility” for engaging with TDs and Senators.

The spokesman said: “We held two briefings with politicians and their staff where experts from Meta and then Twitter explained how to safely use their platforms and what to do if serious threats or abuse arise.

“Both platforms are also putting in place direct contact points for politicians to quickly report any such threats.

“We were careful to ensure that [the] Oireachtas wouldn’t become an intermediary or go-between in this reporting process and can confirm that the point of contact is directly with the respective social media platforms.”

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