Ireland is getting a “Digital Safety Commissioner,” who will have the power to compel social media sites to take down abusive material.
The Irish Independent reports that the primary objective is to protect children from cyberbullying.
The new office will reportedly both promote digital safety and oversee an efficient takedown procedure,”
Writing in the Independent, Communications Minister Denis Naughten said: “Of course there will be those who claim this is akin to censorship and an attack on the freedom of speech but I will not accept there is a place in this digital world for those who wish others dead; disfigured; raped . . . and the list goes on.”
Under Naughten’s proposed plan, social media sites would be required to sign up to a code and agree to remove offensive material within an agreed timeline. Currently, if people see harmful material online the most they can do to stop it is use something like an instagram story download app to save it, so that it can be used as evidence if a claim is made. While this is a handy tool, it would be a brilliant development if social media sites began censoring offensive material before it is posted.
Individuals/parents would still initially apply directly to the social media website to have the post removed – but if a site doesn’t comply with the code of practice standards, the individual may then appeal to the Digital Safety Commissioner.
If the site still refuses to take action the commissioner may then apply for a court order requiring compliance.
According to the Independent, Naughten himself was subject to online abuse after a cycling accident in which he injured his back. He “was subsequently targeted by internet trolls who wished him dead,” which sounds like kind of a weird story. But internet abuse is weird.
About one in ten kids are reportedly subject to cyberbullying and parents are basically powerless to do anything about it.
The initiative is based on an Australian model. It’s weird that Canada doesn’t have something similar. Aren’t we a little late to this party? Shouldn’t we be doing something like this? I’d also recommend that the cyberbullies have their names and pictures widely circulated and that someone call their moms.