Five years on from pivotal online safety report, change is still required

Online Safety artwork

It’s five years today since the Law Reform Commission published its report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety.

The report proved to be the catalyst much-needed for change in online law and policy.

 

ISPCC and Vodafone Ireland Foundation

Prior to the publication of the report, the ISPCC and Vodafone Ireland Foundation embarked on a five-year partnership: a key pillar being children’s online safety.

Together, we held a series of conferences amplifying the need for meaningful change.

In May 2017, a multi-site consultation was held with over 100 children and young people. Their key ask of government was for online safety to be taught as a ‘life skill’ on the curriculum.

 

Action on Online Safety

July 2018:

  • Government’s first Action Plan for Online Safety (2018 – 2019) published

 

  • National Council for Online Safety (NACOS), on which the ISPCC has a seat, was established to support the plan.

 

  • We await an impact assessment of the first plan, and indeed any follow-up plan.

 

January 2020:

  • Minister for Communications Richard Bruton published the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.

 

  • This promised to end the era of industry self-regulation and begin a new era of accountability, while addressing the issue of specific online harms.

 

  • The Bill doesn’t provide for an individual complaints’ mechanism – Where a child has a means of accessing redress when they have experienced egregious cyberbullying and platforms fail to remove the harmful content directed towards them or about them effectively and efficiently.

 

  • The Bill has undergone pre-legislative scrutiny by the relevant committee and we await the publication of its report and the next iteration of the Bill.

 

February 2021

  • Minister for Justice Helen McEntee signed the commencement order for the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act – Commonly referred to as ‘Coco’s Law’

 

  • This saw new crimes created to outlaw the non-consensual sharing of intimate images and broadened the scope of the offence of harassment

 

  • While Hotline.ie has been tasked with handling reports of intimate image abuse, little public awareness has been raised as to what people can report, where they can report and what follow-up supports are available to them

 

 

Now, we need:

  • An Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill to provide for an individual complaints’ mechanism – where an individual can access redress when a platform does not respond effectively or efficiently to their complaint

 

  • Online safety education embedded in our curriculum to build empathetic, resilient and competent digital citizens – to mitigate against future harms and to ensure we have young adults who can compete for the jobs of tomorrow

 

  • A government-led public awareness campaign to identify and address online harms and offences – to signpost those impacted to where they can report and where they can access support

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