Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Justice Minister to engage with social media companies to ensure that they hand over important information to An Garda Síochána in a timely and efficient manner.

Deputy Smith explained, “Last week I read with great concern about the unnecessary obstacles members of An Garda Síochána are experiencing when trying to deal with complaints about social media.  It’s believed that up to 20% of all complaints lodged with the Gardaí relate to some element of social media; however concern has been raised about the level of assistance and co-operation between the Garda and these companies, many of which have their headquarters in Ireland.

“Gardaí are reporting a huge increase in online harassment with teenage girls and boys having to be regularly questioned in relation to online bullying and the sharing of indecent images on social media. Many officers have received no specific training in the handling of these social media complaints nor does their computer system, Pulse, permit access to these sites.

“Gardaí have raised concerns about the level of co-operation that they’re receiving from social media companies, claiming that the process of accessing data from these corporations is overly complicated and painstakingly slow, resulting in huge backlogs in the complaints process.  Some feel that roadblocks are being put in the way of their investigations.

“I have previously called on the Ministers for Communications and Justice to engage with social media companies, in particular those who have bases here in Ireland, in relation to the dissemination of fake news and online abuse.  Given the concerns raised by Gardaí, it is now evident that a real effort is needed to ensure that these companies strengthen their relationship with the force to ensure that they provide co-operation and support to officers who are investigating potential crimes.

“The Minister for Justice also needs to reinstate the professional development classes which were cut during the recession in order to give members the training and skills they need to handle these often precarious matters”, concluded Deputy Smith.