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Facebook and Twitter need rules – Rabbitte

INTERNET giants such as Facebook and Twitter may soon come under the same regulations as newspapers, the Communications Minister has said.

Pat Rabbitte admitted that much stricter measures may be required to address "a gap" in legislation in dealing with offensive material posted online.

The senior cabinet minister also revealed that gardai and the courts currently have no "specific mechanism" available to combat cyberbullying.

But he insisted that bullying existed since "Adam was a boy" and that it didn't "come in with the advent of the internet".

"The same power that allows information to be shared in a free and open way also confers the ability to abuse, bully and harass others, sometimes with the benefit of anonymity," he said. THe was speaking during a series of hearings before the Oireachtas Communications Committee on social media.

Responding to grave concern expressed by TDs and senators over the links between the internet and bullying, Mr Rabbbitte said his department is examining ways to impose the same rules that apply to newspapers.

 

Arrangements

"The print media has addressed the issue through the construction of the Press Ombudsman. This is rather than going through the courts system," he said.

"Can you ever see a day when new media will come under the remit of these kind of arrangements that are in place for the print media? It is an area that can be looked at," he added.

The dangers of social media came to the forefront in recent months following the deaths of teenagers Ciara Pugsley (15) and Erin Gallagher (13).

Both teenagers took their own lives after being subjected to horrendous abuse online.

During the committee hearing, Sligo TD Michael Colreavy said he knew of three suicides among young people where cyberbullying played "a contributory part".

And Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy Eames said the internet had "worsened and quickened" bullying.

Mr Rabbitte said he was particularly unhappy with the "take-down" policies of some social networking sites.

"It appears that there may be a gap in the legislation here in that electronic communications infrastructure is not covered by these measures," he told the committee.

noconnor@herald.ie


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