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Wednesday 19 December 2018

Online safety experts say Minister for the Internet will be necessary

Stock photo
Stock photo

Kevin Doyle and Cormac McQuinn

Experts involved in a Government-commissioned study set up after the 'Slane Girl' controversy have suggested it will be necessary to have an 'Internet Minister' in the future.

The move would be part of a package of measures including the appointment of a Digital Safety Commissioner under the remit of the Department of An Taoiseach.

The suggestion of creating the post of minister for the internet was made at the Oireachtas Committee on Children by barrister Ronan Lupton.

He was a member of the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group which examined online safety after a number of incidents - including the 'Slane Girl' case when images of a 17-year-old girl performing a sex act at a concert went viral online. The group delivered its report in 2014 and Mr Lupton criticised how it has been "gathering dust" since.

Four Cabinet members - Communications Minister Denis Naughten, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and Education Minister Richard Bruton attended yesterday's committee meeting.

Asked about the prospect of a new minister for the internet being needed, Mr Naughten didn't rule it out, but said he wasn't "getting hung up on titles".

He added that if the Digital Safety Commissioner comes under the remit of the Taoiseach's department "so be it".

Senator Joan Freeman asked Mr Flanagan about the digital age of consent for providing personal details to social media companies, which the Government has agreed to set at 13.

Mr Flanagan outlined the Government's reasons for setting the age and said organisations like the Children's Rights Alliance had also recommended 13. He said if the age was higher there would be "real difficulties" in enforcing it.

Ms Freeman asked if social media companies can be made responsible for enforcing the digital age of consent and if legislation should provide for this.

Mr Flanagan said: "I think we can do more in that area and I believe we should explore it."

Irish Independent

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