Oireachtas committee to report to Rabbitte on abuse of social media

 

An Oireachtas committee is to investigate abuses of social media and make a report to Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte early next year.

The Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications is shortly to invite submissions and expressions of interest from individuals and groups on the Oireachtas website. This will be followed by private and public hearings.

Committee chairman Tipperary South Fine Gael TD Tom Hayes said yesterday he was concerned about the growth of cyberbullying and abusive remarks generally made on social media.

“People have to be made accountable for what they are saying,” he added. “Members of the public across a wide section of Irish life are being subjected to bullying and harassment.”

Mr Hayes stressed the committee was not responding solely to the strong language used against politicians in the aftermath of the budget and on abortion and other issues.

“Politicians are just one group of people affected by this,” he said. “Everybody from young children to business people are also being targeted.”

Mr Hayes said he did not envisage the 20-member committee engaging in a long process before compiling a report. “I would hope we would have it ready by the end of January or early February,” he said. “We want to see how extensive the abuse is and suggest what regulations might be put in place if they are found to be necessary.”

He said that while he did not want to anticipate what the committee would decide, new legislation might be required to curb some of the “vile” comments made about people.

The issue was highlighted at the funeral on Christmas Eve of minister of state for agriculture Shane McEntee, who took his own life. Gerry McEntee referred to the “flak” his late brother had endured through social media.

Last night on social media sites such as Twitter many users expressed scepticism that TDs would be able to legislate effectively to tackle the issue.