Saturday 19 January 2019

Government 'boys club' accused of cosying up to big tech

Jailed: Kieran Creaven. Photo: Mark Condren
Jailed: Kieran Creaven. Photo: Mark Condren
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

A cyber expert has attacked the Government as a "boys club" that wants to "cosy up to big tech" by setting the digital age of consent at 13, in the wake of the jailing of online sex predator Kieran Creaven.

Dr Mary Aiken said Creaven, a former RTE producer, used Facebook to prey on girls aged between 14 and 18.

She challenged a claim by Communications Minister Denis Naughten last week that "the big social media platforms are not the problem".

"Charlie Flanagan is trying to force through a bill that lowers the digital age of consent in Ireland to 13, and yet the evidence shows that children aged 14 to 16 are most vulnerable to predators online," she said.

"Leo Varadkar has caused considerable confusion on the critical issue of the digital safety commissioner at a point in time when we desperately need an internet regulator. What is wrong with these men?

"I cannot help but think that if we had a female taoiseach or female ministers in these positions of power we would have a more consistent, protective and nurturing approach to children.

"What we have is a boys club who want to cosy up to big tech - at the cost of our children."

A UK court heard on Friday how Creaven (55) used a fake identity on Facebook to groom a 13-year-old girl online and later tried to meet up with her.

The girl turned out to be a trap set by online paedophile hunters, who set up a fake Facebook profile for her. Creaven flew to Leeds last November, thinking he was meeting the girl. Instead he was confronted by the vigilante group who handed him over to police.

The evidence against him included lewd messages he sent, such as: "Wish you were here in bed with me warm and snuggled up. I'll keep you wrapped up in my arms all night, smell your hair and kiss you."

The court also heard that Creaven contacted up to 20 girls between the ages of 13 and 18 and masturbated to child pornography involving children as a young as eight. He was jailed for 18 months after pleading guilty to two child sex offences.

Debate over the digital age of consent centres on the age at which children should be allowed to consent to the terms and conditions of online tech companies and service providers, to set up email and social media accounts.

Sunday Independent

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