Tougher Laws to Combat Online Abuse On Their Way

By Seamus Whelehan


Internet trolls who create derogatory and humiliating material could face prosecution under new digital communication laws currently being considered.
The news comes following the tabling of a recent motion by Independent Councillor Noel Collins who had called on the Minister of Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan to deal with the problem of cyberbullying.
The Midleton based Cllr claimed there was little regulation and control of bullying on social networking sites.
He said “Such legislation is necessary to rescue the victims from the bullies and the bullies from themselves.”
Currently under Irish Legislation there is no specific law which makes cyberbullying illegal, however there has been successful prosecutions under section 7 of the criminal justice act 1994 and section 13.1 A of the Post Office Act 1951 as amended.
In a lettered response to Cllr Collins the Minister stated the government has given the approval for the drafting of legislation to combat online abuse and the establishment of an oversight agency.
The move comes following the recommendations last year by the law Reform Commission who suggested the creation of some new criminal offences specific to digital communications.
The report by the legal advisory body recommended a series of offences to combat cyberbullying and revenge porn.
They said such online activity can have “a substantial effect on people’s lives causing serious psychological harm and even in extreme cases lead to suicide.”
However the department of Justice say “while it is not feasible to regulate or monitor the internet in anticipation of all possible incidents such as cyberbullying, if a member of the public becomes aware of activity on the internet which they suspect maybe illegal, they can report it confidentially to” is operated by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland with oversight by the Office Of Internet Safety at the Department of Justice.
A recent survey of almost 5,000 teenagers in 11 countries including Ireland attempted to show the scale of cyberbullying.
The study carried out by YouGov found that over a quarter of Irish teenagers have been the target of cyberbullying.
The teenagers surveyed felt online bullying was worse than face to face bullying with over half believing it to be worse than drug abuse for young people.
In 2015 Cllr Mary Linehan Foley and former Fianna Fail Cllr Aaron O’Sullivan were the target of a fake Facebook account. The communication was intense and relentless over a number of weeks.
Gardai at the time stated they were following a definite line of enquiry. The case was subsequently dropped by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Speaking to the East Cork Journal Cllr Linehan Foley said if there had been a specific law regarding online bullying there may have been a different result.