In the sexting era, policing bad behaviour is tough
Published 27/09/2016 | 02:30
Any new law has its work cut out. Irish people now communicate as much through images and photos (of ourselves, mainly) as we do through text. This is one reason why services such as Instagram and Snapchat are far outpacing rivals such as Twitter and SMS.
And this extends right into personal relationships. Intimacy - or the trappings of it - over messaging apps is not a novelty. A recent study by Dublin City University found that more than a quarter of Irish teenagers send intimate images or texts to each other.
Other research suggests that young adults are similarly unfazed by exchanging images that could later become highly sensitive or embarrassing.
With so much compromising material flying around in the 'cloud', can our criminal legal system keep up? The Law Reform Commission intends to try. The commission has recommended heavy sentences for offences such as revenge porn.
It also makes clear that posting or taking indecent photos without consent will now land perpetrators in serious trouble. The same goes for "one-off harmful communications".
And it won't be an excuse now to say that a photo or video was part of an end-of-year party after a few pints.
Consent, the Law Reform Commission recommends, should be something that the person involved has the "freedom and capacity" to accede to. That almost certainly means that it can't be obtained if the person being filmed is clearly drunk.
The proposals reach into other modern types of harassment too, making specific reference to the setting up of fake social media profiles meant to denigrate or humiliate.
However, it does not propose a solid remedy for one of the most widespread forms of online abuse - anonymous social media accounts that are set up to harass individuals.
Blocking or banning such accounts is largely ineffective because the perpetrator simply sets up a new one.
One possible answer to this would be the proposed creation of a 'Digital Safety Commissioner', backed by a statutory code of practice.
While all of this may help, a lot more is needed.
Cyber-crime also poses a huge challenge for business, as global security incidents have risen by almost 40pc, according to PwC research.
This November 15 in Dublin, the conference Infosec 2016 will examine some of the important issues that threaten businesses of the digital age. Security experts, journalists and business leaders will gather at Dublin's RDS to look at potential solutions.
Technology will always be ahead of the law. So too will our evolving behaviour. We can't expect legal rules to fix human failings.