Cork County Council seek taskforce to look at 'unacceptable' online bullying

Cork County Council seek taskforce to look at 'unacceptable' online bullying

A letter from Cork County Council regarding the need for a task force to combat online abuse is to be sent to the office of the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Department of Justice.

A NEW taskforce to look at online bullying and abusive behaviour on social media platforms is being suggested to the Government by Cork County Council.

The idea came from Cobh Fine Gael Councillor Sinead Sheppard, who recounted issues of online bullying that she has been contacted about, but has been unable to meaningfully help. Ms Sheppard said without proper education and legislation, the issue was not going to go away.

The councillor said that the current legislation is outdated and with the constant development of online platforms, the problem needs to be looked at on a regular basis to ensure the legal side of things was as agile as possible to combat the problem.

“A lot of the time social media can be a good thing, but we have to address the downsides as well,” she said.

Fine Gael councillor Sinead Sheppard said without proper education and legislation, the issue was not going to go away.Picture: David Keane.
Fine Gael councillor Sinead Sheppard said without proper education and legislation, the issue was not going to go away.Picture: David Keane.

Ms Sheppard said during lockdown she heard of a 14-year-old boy who was repeatedly added to WhatsApp groups only to be aggressively berated by his peers. When the matter was brought to the attention of the Gardaí, the family were told there was little that could be done.

The Cobh councillor said influencers and public representatives are also unfairly targeted online with the general consensus being the abuse is an accepted consequence of being in the public eye.

“No laws specifically address cyberbullying, there are harassment laws but they are not up to date,” she said. “A new Irish regulatory framework regarding online harm is greatly needed.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Danielle Twomey said that she also knew of a cancer victim who cannot have children being sent baby clothes as a taunting reference to the children she could never have.

Independent Councillor Ben Dalton O’Sullivan also supported the motion, saying there is horrendous abuse being carried out online and it has to be tackled.

“The abuse is completely unacceptable,” Mr Dalton O’Sullivan said.

Fine Gael Councillor Eileen Lynch said negative comments online can have a serious effect on a person’s mental health and as public representatives, councillors are supposed to shake off online abuse as part of the job, which it is not what they signed up for.

A letter from Cork County Council regarding the need for a task force to combat online abuse is to be sent to the office of the Taoiseach Micheál Martin and the Department of Justice.

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