TWO key agencies that police the internet are suffering a serious lack of funding, a Dail committee has been warned.
The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner and the Garda's Computer Crime Investigation Unit have insufficient staff to deal with their heavy workload, an Oireachtas committee has heard.
The lack of resources in the two agencies was raised at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications on the challenges arising from social media use, including cyber-bullying and online harassment.
TJ McIntyre, chairman of Digital Rights Ireland, said the country had substantial laws in place, such as the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act, but warned that there may not be a sufficient level of awareness about legal rights.
Mr McIntyre also told the committee that online anonymity served socially useful purposes, such as whistleblowing, and making it easier to identify users would put that at risk.
The committee was told that improved funding for the Data Protection Commissioner would allow ordinary citizens an opportunity to seek redress without having to endure the expense of court proceedings.
Fergal Crehan, also of Digital Rights Ireland, said there was an issue about resources for the Data Protection Commissioner, where funding in 2011 was at 2004 levels.
This was at a time when companies such as Facebook and Google were setting up European headquarters here.
Mr Crehan said a staff of 20, operating from a small office in Portarlington, were regulating the data for all of Europe for companies such as Facebook.
He said there was also a lack of resources in the garda unit, and creating new offences, such as offensive communications, would dump more work on an already overworked office.
Sue Duke, Google Ireland's public policy boss, told the committee that 72 hours of video were uploaded on YouTube every minute, and outlined the measures in place to protect users. She said that the online community of YouTube users played a central role in reporting inappropriate and offensive content.
Meanwhile, pupils are being asked to sign an anti-bullying pledge and learn how to cope with unacceptable behaviour at school and online as part of a 'Bullying in a Cyber World' initiative launched yesterday.
It targets children as young as four and shows them how to deal with and prevent bullying.