Cyber Bullying – New Laws to control online abuse are on the way!
Newly proposed laws to tackle online abuse issues such as cyber bullying, cyber stalking, revenge porn and other types of related online harassment. The new internet abuse laws have been commonly referred to as legislation to prevent ‘revenge porn’. Until this year loop holes in Irish Legislation have allowed for the publication and sharing of explicit images – referred to as ‘revenge porn’ – to go unpunished. The research behind the new legal proposals comes from the Law Reform Commission and a study entitled ‘Report on harmful communications and digital Safety’ submitted in September 2016.
Whilst the internet has brought immense positive changes there have been some negative developments also. In their research, the commission identified some such trends as ‘intimidating and threatening online messages directed at private persons and public figures. Digital technology has also facilitated a new type of voyeurism, there have also been many instances of online and digital harassment and stalking, which also mirror to some extent the pre-digital versions of these harmful behaviours.’
Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald received approval just before the Christmas to move forward with drafting the ‘Non-Fatal Offences (Amendment) Bill.’
So what’s it all about? Well in brief 2 new criminal offences are proposed
- The first is to deal with the intentional victim-shaming behaviour of posting intimate images without consent, often done after a relationship has broken down (so-called “revenge porn”).
- The second new offence also deals with posting intimate photos or videos and is to deal with a new type of voyeurism, often called “up skirting” or “down-blousing”.
What is the suggested punishment for such cyber bullying offences?
Under the proposals, offences such as revenge porn, online harassment/cyber bullying and cyber stalking would lead to a fine (unlimited) and/or a jail sentence of up to 7 years. For less serious cases of these offences, a fine of €5000 and/or up to 12 months in prison are applicable.
Whilst the bulk of the e-mails and texts that people send and receive on a daily basis are not in any way affected by the legislation, the occasional joke text, image posting online which gets circulated without review could present problems.
Most people will see the proposals as a positive development and it is felt that highlighting of the issue will lead to fewer of such offences occurring.