herald

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Facebook and Twitter will discuss cyberbullying at hearing in the Oireachtas

Lorraine Higgins and Mairia Cahill, pictured, have suffered online abuse
Lorraine Higgins and Mairia Cahill, pictured, have suffered online abuse

Social networking giants Facebook and Twitter are to appear before TDs and senators to discuss cyberbullying.

The Oireachtas Committee on Communications is to call in representatives from both companies to discuss their practices in relation to dealing with alleged bullying on their sites.

The decision was taken following a request by Labour Party senator Lorraine Higgins.

Criminal

Ms Higgins has published a bill which proposes making cyberbullying a criminal offence.

The bill will make it an offence to share any message that incites someone to commit harm to themselves.

It would also provide for up to 12 months in jail and fines of €5,000 for anyone found guilty of cyberbullying.

The bill has secured the Government's support.

Senator Higgins is one of a number of Oireachtas members who have suffered abuse online.

Mairia Cahill, who is expected to be appointed as Labour's newest senator in November, has also been subjected to constant online taunts.

Last month, Ms Higgins called on the social media giants to appear after a survey showed one in every four children have suffered cyberbullying.

In correspondence with Ms Higgins, the Oireachtas confirmed that the invite will be issued.

A recent survey by Vodafone found that 51pc of Irish teenagers see the issue as being bigger than drug abuse among young people, while 45pc said they felt helpless when subjected to cyberbullying.

"Social media companies should not get off scot-free when it comes to legal and moral responsibility for its users, who they depend on to generate profits of millions, if not billions, of euro," Ms Higgins said.

Sustained

"Adults and children alike have been exposed to sustained and sometimes orchestrated campaigns of abuse online.

"This has been allowed fester because of the lack of clear legislation in this area and it is not going away as a problem.

"Social media companies now need to step up to the plate. It's about time they showed some corporate social responsibility," she added.

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