Fianna Fáil councillor Erin McGreehan says it is “time for the law to catch up with the technology” and wants proposed new legislation introduced to make harmful online communications and harassment illegal.
McGreehan, the Dundalk-Carlingford representative who holds a degree in law, made the comments following the tragic death of TV star Caroline Flack. The former Love Island host was found dead at her home on Saturday. Her death has brought into focus the online behaviour of both individuals on social media and some publishers.
“Unfortunately, there have been many tragedies caused by the incredibly harmful behaviour of some people online,” McGreehan said.
“Physical assault and harassment are illegal, and the online versions should also be legislated for. It is time for the law to catch up with the technology.”
The councillor referred to the Law Reform Commission, who in 2016 published its report on Harmful Communication and Digital Safety. A year later, a Bill – the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill – was also drafted to implement the proposals in their report.
The bill provided for the establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner whose functions are to ensure oversight and regulation of procedures for the removal of harmful digital communications. It also provided for the creation of codes of practice for digital service undertakings and for the establishment of an advisory committee to the proposed Digital Safety Commissioner.
Cllr McGreehan said that while the Bill in it’s current guise may need tweaking in areas of “jurisdiction, transparency and time frames,” the Bill should be the “beginning of positive change in making the online world safer for us all.”
“A commission would facilitate a safer online environment, would advise on online safety issues and therefore lead to a safer and more positive online experiences for everyone.”
The Digital Safety Commissioner is modelled off a similar body in Australia called the eSafety Commissioner.