Tuesday 16 July 2019

Online self-regulation over, Simon Coveney says

The Tanaiste said he hoped to introduce legislation before the end of the year.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney told the Dail he hopes to introduce online safety legislation before the end of the year (Niall Carson/PA Wire)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney told the Dail he hopes to introduce online safety legislation before the end of the year (Niall Carson/PA Wire)

By Michelle Devane, Press Association  

The days of self-regulation in the online industry are over, the Dail has heard.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney said the State needs to get involved in protecting vulnerable children and young people from cyber bullying and pornographic material.

Mr Coveney admitted that it was a very difficult issue to get right, but he said he hoped to have legislation introduced by the end of the year.

It comes after the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dail on Wednesday that the Government would consider a law being implemented in the UK that aims to restrict access to porn to over 18s only.

“The Government’s view is that the days of self-regulation online are over,” Mr Coveney told the Dail on Thursday.

“States’ now need to get involved in putting in appropriate levels of regulation to ensure that we can protect vulnerable people and in particular children.”

“Media coverage of things that have happened in the last few days are a reminder of that”.

“But it is an issue and has been an issue for a number of years now.”

He added that parents in the Dail chamber were all too aware of the dangers of even allowing their children to use  a mobile phone.

The Tanaiste made the comments in response to Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty who raised the issue of online safety during Leaders’ Questions.

“We all know that children and teenagers, despite the best efforts of their parents, are able to access inappropriate material on the internet, on social media and that this can have a real negative consequences for children, for their families and for society at large,” Mr Doherty told the Dail.

The Donegal TD said the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill, introduced by his party in February 2018, has been stuck in committee stage, despite receiving unanimous support in the Dail.

He said it gave “meaningful” supports to the state in their efforts to combat cyber bullying, the prevalence of harmful communication and material and micro-targeting and online abuse.

He added that the bill is supported by the ISPCC and other groups.

He said all members of parliament had ideas about what might be done, and he called on all parties to work together to get the bill over the line.

Mr Coveney said that Fine Gael wanted to work with all parties to make changes, but that it would take time and he did not think “comprehensive” legislation on online safety could be put in place before the summer recess.

The Tanaiste concluded that he hoped to have such legislation enacted before the end of the year.

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