Facebook backs minister over new child protection legislation

Credit: Breakingnews.ie

By Ellen Fitzpatrick

Facebook has broken their silence to back Minister Bruton’s proposal to police the internet

The minister is proposing new legislation to protect children online.

Facebook say that they already have a set of community standards where, when violations occur, the offending content is immediately removed.

They also said their current practices already reflect much of what the minister is proposing.

The new legislation will introduce several changes that will protect Irish residents using the internet.

Facebook is the first social media organisation to welcome the new legislation saying they support its aim to maintain a safe and secure social networking platform for all ages.

“Our priority is to make Facebook a safe place for people of all ages, which is why we work closely with safety experts, including the National Anti-Bullying Centre at DCU, and have spent many years developing a range of tools to help people have a positive experience on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“We very much welcome the consultation Minister Bruton has launched and support its stated aim of achieving a proportionate and effective approach to dealing with harmful content online. We also welcome his focus on defining “harmful” communications in such a way that does not curtail legitimate freedom of speech and freedom of expression online,” they added.

The ministers initiative comes after a school in Newry had pornographic material put on their website and the momo challenge scare that went viral on Whatsapp last week.

“Police received a report of an incident in relation to a website in the name of a school in the Newry area.  On further police investigation it was established that the lease for this website had expired and it was legitimately purchased by another user,” a police spokesperson said.

“While it would be impossible to remove every danger from the internet or from the adaptation of new technology, what we need to do is to ensure that parents and children are better equipped, that the state can provide regulation and enforcement, and that online platforms take responsibility,” Minister Bruton said in a speech to Saint Brigids Girls National School,  Glasnevin.

“The danger of not providing a clear definition is that we would unintentionally restrict legitimate freedom of speech and freedom of expression, which are core values,” the Minister added.

There has been no reaction to this proposed legislation by Instagram and Twitter as of yet.

The definition of content that is considered harmful, according to the Minister, include anything that has potential risks of self harm or suicide, threatening, humiliating or intimidating forms of cyber-bullying and content that has an “effect of exposing a person to risk of death or endangering health.”

Although it is a requirement that anything that is a criminal offence must be removed under Irish and EU law, this new legislation would regulate the content that children are exposed to daily.

“While there are many very good initiatives going on across the government to promote online safety, particularly by WebWise, the Online Safety Commissioner can be a single online access point through which all available Online Safety resources can be accessed by parents, teachers and children. This could build on the government’s Be Safe Online portal,” the Minister said.

There are two ways in which this legislation aims to regulate online safety and institute an Online Safety Commissioner, to establish a media commission or have two regulators.

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