Tuesday 19 June 2018

The face of a troll - another sign Leo is wrong about regulation

It hasn't been a good week for the internet, social media, or smartphones. And our hands-off approach is madness, writes Brendan O'Connor

Sad case: Stephen French pleaded guilty to threatening to kill then senator Lorraine Higgins Picture: Gerry Mooney
Sad case: Stephen French pleaded guilty to threatening to kill then senator Lorraine Higgins Picture: Gerry Mooney
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Leo Varadkar says he is nervous of governments trying to regulate the internet. He feels it might involve restrictions on freedom of speech. And he's probably right, isn't he? Because it's all going so well, isn't it?

The courts, we saw last week, seem to feel differently about interfering with the internet. Indeed it looks as if the Northern Irish courts may be world leaders in making Facebook responsible for the material it publishes on its site. Last week, in a historic first, the company settled a legal action with a 14-year-old who claimed a naked photo blackmailed out of her was then put on Facebook "shame" pages in an act of revenge. Which might cause you to ask what are shame pages and why are they allowed to exist.

Not that Facebook would accept responsibility for "shame pages". Indeed they tried to prevent the girl's legal action, for what her lawyers said was child abuse, because Facebook, as you know, is not a publisher, and therefore is not responsible for the content it publishes. While Facebook claims to be working harder to monitor unacceptable and dangerous content, it still maintains that it is primarily everyone else's responsibility to point out inappropriate content. There seems to be a feeling that this case brings us a step closer to Facebook taking responsibility for the content it makes its billions from, one step closer to being a publisher.

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