Sites should help combat cyberbullying, TDs told

Social networks have technology to ban bullies but not resources, committee hears

Thu, Mar 14, 2013, 06:00

Social networking companies need to put specialist resources in place to help teachers and others to deal with cyberbullying, the Oireachtas Communications Committee has heard today.

Major social network providers are not adequately resources to deal with takedown and blocking requests, Paul C Dwyer of voluntary organisation the International Cyber Threat Taskforce said.

One social network provider received some 100,000 requests per day and had just 90 people to deal with such requests, he said. They needed to pay “more than lip service” to the issue, he said.

He was speaking as part of a National Anti-Bullying Coalition delegation addressing the committee today on the challenges posed by cyber-bullying and online harassment as part of a series of ongoing meetings on social media.

Mr Dwyer said social networking companies had the technology available to identify bullies and ban their behaviour through their profile and devices they use.

Fianna Fail TD Michael Moynihan asked what treaties and laws were necessary to deal with cyberbullying.

Irish laws had not kept up with technology and treaties were not in place to facilitate a safe environment online, Mr Dwyer said.

Until Ireland ratified the Convention on Cybercrime, which includes offences on illicit child material, there was “not even a foundation” to start working in this area, he said.

The solution lay in putting “overall responsibility” on sites which make money from cyberbullying, he said referring to sites outside the Irish jurisdiction.

Politicians needed to look at using existing legislation such as lawful intercept used to get information from telecoms providers, telecoms fraud expert Colin Larkin, also part of the anti-bullying delegation, told the committee.

Social network providers had all the information needed to protect victims but access was needed to it, Mr Larkin said.

Social networks should make it easy to allow people to report instances of bullying, by, for example, having a report button beside posts, he said. He suggested that this would gather all information and send it to a secure data base under the control of the Garda.

Cyberbullying was more to do with the mindset of a person wanting to bully than the technology, Sean Fallon of the National Anti-Bullying Coalition told the committee.

Most victims of cyberbullying have already been bullied by the person in school, he said. If cyberbullying was prevented forever a child would find another way to bully, he said.

Strategies to deal with bullying and cyberbullying had so far not been “terribly successful” he said. To prevent bullying and cyber bullying needed to look at the attitude of the bully.

The Communications committee has already heard in previous sittings from Twitter and Facebook and is also due to hear from representatives of YouTube in the coming weeks.