A woman whose daughter killed herself after years of online torment has vowed to continue a campaign to change cyber-bullying laws in Ireland.
Jackie Fox’s daughter Nicole died in a Dublin hospital in January after years of online abuse, harassment and threats.
Despite reporting the abuse after her daughter’s death, Ms Fox, from Dublin, was told by gardai there was nothing they could do as no law was broken.
Nicole, 21, also known as Coco, was the victim of a three-year online bullying campaign.
After she died, to my horror I learned that it was not an offence to tell someone to self-harm, die, go kill themselves and slit your wristJackie Fox
Bullies targeted her through messaging platforms and a fake Facebook page set up to specifically to harass and bully her.
Daily threats were made to kill her and put her on a life-support machine.
“After she died, to my horror I learned that it was not an offence to tell someone to self-harm, die, go kill themselves and slit your wrist,” Ms Fox said.
“The guards said it was a grey area and they could not charge anyone.”
There are no laws in Ireland that specifically address cyber-bullying, and harassment laws have not been updated to reflect messages sent on social media.
Ms Fox has called for tougher laws and wants harassment legislation to be amended to make online bullying a crime.
There are lots of kids who feel the way Nicole did. Action needs to be taken now, not next yearJackie Fox
Earlier this year, she told TDs at Leinster House there was a need to introduce an anti-bulling law, but she says nothing has been done since.
“This is an issue that won’t go away and it needs to be addressed,” she added.
“There are lots of kids who feel the way Nicole did. Action needs to be taken now, not next year.
“This is a huge problem, bullies are getting younger and so are the victims.
“The current 1997 Act is so outdated and back then there wasn’t Facebook or Snapchat.
“This amendment would save a lot of heartache and a lot of devastation for families. These bullies need to be held accountable for their actions.”
Ms Fox said she will organise marches and rallies to draw further attention to the issue.
“I am not going to give up or stop until something is brought in by the Government,” she added.
The campaign is backed by Geraldine Swift and Sarah Mannion Butler, whose children have also suffered from online bullying.
There have been calls for a social media watchdog with powers to make tech firms act faster on bullying.
The Digital Safety Commissioner would have the power to identify and take down illegal content.
The social media companies need to wake up to the reality of what is going on under their watch and face up to the fact that it is their responsibility to prevent this bullying from happeningGino Kenny
People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny has called for social media companies to bring in policies to tackle online bullying and for schools to introduce an education programme.
The party also says a tax should be imposed on social media companies, ring-fenced for the provision of child and adolescent mental health services.
Mr Kenny added: “Legislation alone is not going to solve bullying, it’s a societal problem.
“There is a major onus on social media firms that provides the platforms to be engaged with and make a contribution to an anti-bullying programme.
“The social media companies need to wake up to the reality of what is going on under their watch and face up to the fact that it is their responsibility to prevent this bullying from happening.”