Saturday 15 December 2018

Coveney says tech companies must take responsibility for promoting child safety online

Stock Image: Getty Images
Stock Image: Getty Images
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has said tech companies must take responsibility for promoting child safety online as he revealed his own concerns about internet safety as a father-of-three.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten is expected to move to appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner.

A debate around child safety online has been heightened by a case of a Dublin man who is to be sentenced today after admitting to sexually exploited girls as young as nine through social media will be sentenced on Friday.

Matthew Horan, from St John's Crescent in Clondalkin, used Snapchat, Instagram, and Kik to ask young girls to send him sexually explicit videos and pictures.

Mr Coveney said today that his concern stems from his role as a TD and also as a father.

“The Government shares your concern in this area. As a politician but also as a father of three young girls who know how to work my mobile phone as well as I can - despite the fact that the oldest one of them is only eight,” he said.

He said virtually every family in the country is having a conversation about balancing children’s access to technology and protecting them online.

“The Government wants to respond to the challenge in a comprehensive way,” he said.

He said Minister Naughten will get support from all quarters of Government on a move to appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner but a conversation about cost and feasibility has not yet occurred.

However he said tech companies must also look at how they can tackle the circulation of inappropriate information and imagery on the internet.

“We do need to look, I think, at the responsibility for those who have responsibility for online platforms in terms of how we can screen and remove inappropriate information and how we can protect people in the appropriate way while also ensuring we enjoy the benefits of technology, ” he said.

This was something that most western democracies are struggling with, he added.

Earlier this week Minister of State Jim Daly suggested linking the Public Services Card to social media accounts but Taoiseach Leo Varadkar poured water on that suggestion.

Speaking in the Dail today Labour Leader Brendan Howlin branded the idea “ludicrous”.

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