Greater effort needed to tackle online abuse

Claire McGovern

Reporter:

Claire McGovern

Social media companies to work closely with the Government in order to tackle the growing scourge of online abuse.

This is according to Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan - Monaghan Brendan Smith  who also added that the Government needs to re-examine its strategy for dealing with online abuse by giving one Department lead responsibility for dealing with the issue.

Deputy Brendan Smith said, “Online abuse has been a growing problem in recent years as the popularity of social media platforms increases. The response to dealing with this has been inadequate to date and policies differ hugely amongst the different social media platforms. Social media companies need to work together to create a common charter for dealing with online abuse. There needs to be a greater effort to tackle repeat offenders who use multiple social media platforms to spread hatred.

“The Government also has a role to play in dealing with this problem. Minister for Communications Denis Naughton recently confirmed to me through a parliamentary reply that no single Government Department has been tasked with tackling online abuse. Currently the responsibility for dealing with this falls between the Departments of Justice and Equality, Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills, Health and the Department of Communications. This is leading to a confused and un-coordinated policy response from the Government. The Government needs to assign one Department with lead responsibility in dealing with this growing problem.

“Unfortunately the Government has been slow to move on the issue of hate speech and online bullying. Fianna Fáil brought forward legislation as far back as 2013 which would make cyber-bullying a criminal offense. The Cyber Bullying Bill 2013 made it an offence to engage in cyber-bullying and it will also be an offence to assist or encourage it, however the draft law was not progressed by the Government and fell when the Dáil was dissolved last year.

“Social media companies certainly have a role to play in tackling online abuse, but this needs to be backed up by Government action. We can’t simply ignore this problem as it is having a serious impact on people’s lives,” concluded Deputy Brendan Smith.