Monday 17 June 2019

Online tech giants 'not the problem' with child safety

Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: True Media
Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: True Media
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Tech giants are not the big problem when it comes to child safety online, Communications Minister Denis Naughten has said.

Speaking at the Government's open policy debate on online safety, he said the issues lay with the newer apps that are being invented.

"The big problem, and particularly in relation to online safety in relation to children, are not the big players," he said.

"The big problems are the new innovative apps that are being developed and as we've seen in some of the court cases that have happened to date, it has been some of these new apps."

He said the tools necessary to protect children online needed to be developed and made freely available to all apps.

Mr Naughten was asked if the fact that thousands are employed in Ireland from these companies, would affect how strongly they're dealt with, but played this down.

"I don't see that as an issue. I work quite closely with all of the tech companies in this country, the start-ups right up to the big players," he said.

"The big players are well able to fight their own corner here in Ireland as in Europe. What we need to do is look at where the real challenges are."

The minister insisted that "whatever we need to do we will do that" when it came to protecting children on the internet.

Mr Naughten's comments were criticised by cyber-crime expert Dr Mary Aiken, who did not attend the debate. She said "the minister's statement is disappointing". "It effectively lets the big tech companies in this space off the hook," she said.

Representatives from Facebook and Google also spoke at the event at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, yesterday.

Opening the debate, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the Government would have an action plan on online safety by the end of June. He said the big tech industries would only be able to survive and thrive if they are part of the solution to the dangers posed online.

Detective Superintendent Declan Daly, of the Garda National Protection Services Bureau, said that children were being blackmailed by predators, who would use an image to then get further images from the child.

Irish Independent

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