Friday 15 December 2017

Labour brings two separate bills targeting online bullying

Ms Higgins insisted that she was a passionate defender of the principles of free speech but that children and young adults needed protecting
Ms Higgins insisted that she was a passionate defender of the principles of free speech but that children and young adults needed protecting
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

Internet trolls face being fined €5,000 or up to a year in jail if found guilty of bullying people online, under a new law being proposed.

Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins, who was herself the victim of online abuse, launched the bill yesterday.

Under the bill, any electronic communication may be considered "harmful" if it incites or encourages someone to take their own life or cause serious harm to themselves.

Under the proposed bill, called the Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015, it will also be an offence simply to send "explicit content" to another person.

Ms Higgins insisted that she was a passionate defender of the principles of free speech but that children and young adults needed protecting.

She said she had discussed the bill with Communications Minister Alex White and said he was "broadly supportive" of new legislation.

Separately, former communications minister Pat Rabbitte introduced his Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Bill, 2015.

Mr Rabbitte's Bill would make it an offence for a person to send, or cause to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or menacing in character.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Rabbitte said: "Both Lorraine and I are coming at it from different viewpoints. I feel a certain responsibility to continue the work. We are in two different houses. I hope they can pick up my bill."

Mr Rabbitte said he expected the Government would be supportive of his bill and the Law Reform Commission had approved of it.

The Government's Internet Content Advisory Group, chaired by Dr Brian O'Neill of DIT, made up to 30 recommendations to Mr Rabbitte when he was minister and he wants to see the work through.

Mr Rabbitte said Ms Higgins' bill was wider than his, and may overtake it in due course.

Irish Independent

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