Businessman Dennis O’Brien has criticized Ireland’s relationship with Facebook, calling the social media giant a «colonizer» who uses its platform to «facilitate chaos».
O’Brien, Ireland’s richest person and founder, chairman and CEO of Digicel, said Ireland has been «unfortunately» a «pivotal partner» of the company due to its tax laws and is therefore «complicit in the atrocious practices under which Facebook operates».
The remarks, delivered Thursday at a lecture at Cambridge University, were part of a wide speech that touched on Ireland’s role in the developing world, reparations for slavery and what Mr O’Brien called «philanthropic capitalism».
Mr. O’Brien was delivering the Fifth Brian Linehan Memorial Lecture, an annual series honoring the late Finance Minister Brian Linehan Jr., a Cambridge alumnus, who died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 52 after serving in office with illness.
Previous speakers have included Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and UCD Economics Lecturer Colm McCarthy.
O’Brien’s speech included a scathing attack on Facebook and a frank criticism of Ireland’s financial relationship with the multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley company.
He warned that the company had become too big to challenge its use of personal data and its influence on policy. He said a «coalition of like-minded governments» needed to regulate Facebook.
«Make no mistake about it,» he said, «Facebook is as cunning as it is malicious.» «It is time for the Irish government, the European Union and the United States to take action.»
O’Brien has criticized Facebook previously, including in a 2017 speech to the Global Symposium for (Telecoms) Regulators in the Bahamas.
Digicel is a major provider of digital services in the Caribbean, Central America and the South Pacific region. Its communications business competes with WhatsApp, Facebook’s free personal messaging app.
In his last speech, despite Ireland being included in a potential alliance of Facebook’s opponents, Mr. O’Brien drew a severe rebuke to the government here for its close relationship with the company.
«Ireland, unfortunately, has allowed itself to become Facebook’s launderette of the world’s largest tax avoidance scheme,» he said.
“Obviously I am proud of Ireland’s role in the developing world, but this is a disgrace to our reputation. Facebook continues its role in spreading hate, racism and misinformation with impunity.”
Mr. O’Brien also outlined his views on a «market-based, for-profit capitalist approach to solving the world’s most important issues» such as the «Bill and Melinda Gates Pledge» or the Atlantic Philanthropy of Chuck Finney.
Supporters say such philanthropy can address social and economic problems by using the profit motive to generate money for education, health care and disaster relief.
Opponents argue that corporate profits and billionaire wealth should be taxed at higher rates.
«Lector profesional. Jugador galardonado. Aficionado a los zombis. Adicto a las redes sociales. Experto en tocino. Erudito en Internet»