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Sunday 20 October 2019

Social media is 'insane Wild West' without regulation

Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The lack of regulation of social media platforms is a "Wild-West scenario" that is "completely insane", a Government TD has said.

Colm Brophy made the remarks at the Oireachtas Justice Committee which was examining online harassment and cyber-bullying.

The committee heard calls for social media sites to require age and identity verification.

Meanwhile, organisations like the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC) and Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) raised concerns over the sharing of explicit images by children and sexual harassment of people of all ages online.

Caroline Counihan, of RCNI, said "effective regulation" had not kept pace with developments in online technologies.

Mr Brophy said he believed the core of the problem was that "platforms are completely unregulated", adding: "We have a Wild-West scenario, which is completely insane."

Ms Counihan added that the RCNI had argued "very strongly" for the planned Digital Safety Commissioner to have powers to oversee take-down procedures.

Ms Counihan said she wouldn't rule out the idea of making directors of "rogue internet service providers" liable for failure to take down harmful material that had been notified to them.

Communications Minister Richard Bruton told RTÉ that the commissioner would enforce a code of conduct on internet companies "with severe penalties".

ISPCC boss John Church said there needed to be a greater onus on companies like Facebook to verify the age of users.

Prof Joe Carthy, of the UCD Centre for Cybersecurity, said that if social media platforms required users to prove their identity it would greatly diminish instances of cyber-bullying and hate speech.

Fianna Fáil TD Jack Chambers said the proliferation of fake accounts was a "huge issue" but identified cross-jurisdictional problems that could arise with legislation.

Mr Carthy said that if Ireland brought in such a law, "other countries will follow".

Irish Independent

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