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01st Jan 2017

The Irish government is getting serious about beating online trolls

Rosanna Cooney

Harmful online content watchdog

A new watchdog will act on behalf of victims of online abuse.

Cyber-bullying, revenge porn and online abuse, are features of our tech world and the impact on the victims of online abuse is inestimable. Until now in Ireland, the law has been unclear on the responsibility of sites like facebook and Twitter for removing content deemed to be offensive.

This is set to change.

Minister for Communication Denis Naughten, is setting up a new watchdog to tackle online abuse.  Until now it has been at the discretion of social media sites to monitor and remove offensive material, this is often ineffective and enduring damage can occur before Takedown procedures are enacted.

Complaints by young people to The Law Reform Commission have previously highlighted how difficult it is to get facebook to remove harmful content and the new watchdog intends to act upon this, enforcing removal by law.

The new legislation will not only apply to social media sites but also to search engines, online forums, and comment sections on websites.

At present it is decision of the affected individual to bring online companies to court if they refuse to take down offensive material, the financial burden is often an immediate deterrent and as a result victims of online abuse can be faced with a choice of astronomical legal bills or living with hateful material about them still being accessible online.

The new watchdog will act on behalf of individuals and can direct online companies to remove material, if the companies fail to do so, the watchdog can get a circuit court order to remove the material.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has also recently been given the green light to make revenge porn illegal and punishable by a maximum of €5000 and/or 7 years in prison. 

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