More action needed to tackle the scourge of online abuse and fake news – Smith

Published on: 24 January 2017

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has called on the Ministers for Communications and Justice to engage with social media companies, who have bases here in Ireland, to discuss how these platforms can best reduce hate speeches and fake news reports posted on their sites.

Deputy Smith commented, “While fake news has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months, it is a practice which has been a feature of social media for much longer than that and it poses a serious threat to truth and democracy.  Many of the world’s most prominent social media companies have their European Headquarters in Dublin so the Government has a responsibility to engage with them to ensure, insofar as is possible, that all efforts are being made to clamp down on the publication of fake news on these platforms.

“Minister Naughten has confirmed that his officials have had no specific discussions on fake news, and claims that an international approach is needed to respond to the issue.  While I accept that international cooperation is needed, our Government should be actively engaging with these companies at a local level to explore what options are available to them.

“Unfortunately this Government has been slow to move on the issue of hate speech and online bullying.  Fianna Fáil brought forward legislation as far back as 2013 which would make cyber bullying a criminal offence.  The Cyber Bullying Bill 2013 made it an offence to engage in cyber-bullying and it will also be an offence to assist it or encourage it, however the draft law was not progressed by the Government and fell when the Dáil was dissolved last year.

“I am urging Ministers Naughten and Fitzgerald to reengage with these social media companies on these specific issues to ensure that every avenue to prevent the publication of hate speeches and fake news on these platforms is being explored and implemented”.

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