ABC were among the consultant groups to consult with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the upcoming Online Harassment Bill.
Prof. James O’Higgins Norman, Dr. Tijana Milosevic and Dr. Mairéad Foody drafted a comprehensive recommendations report for the Joint Oireachtas Committee to consider for the advancement of the legislation. The report took an evidence-based approach to identifying potential issues for the implementation of the Bill, and suggested recommended actions based on research undertaken at ABC and from the wider cyberbullying and online safety research community.
ABC’s recommendations for the legislation were as follows:
- Banning or vilifying one app or type of technology will not stop another one from appearing and it is not a long-term solution for the problem.
- Cyberbullying is not merely an online safety issue but can also be a behavioural problem, therefore removing the content may not solve the conflict which can continue on other platforms or offline.
- Any piece of legislation that only or predominantly focuses on content removal might miss the opportunity to address the problem at a level beyond merely addressing the symptoms.
- Provided that ethical measures and data protection are adequately safeguarded, independent researchers should be provided with access to data that currently only companies in-house research units have access to, so they can investigate the effects and effectiveness of companies’ tools.
- Make it a requirement that funding is provided for prevention and intervention measures, as well as educational strategies to help children and young people affected by cyberbullying and children who are vulnerable.
- These would include, funding for psychological services and helpline services and for the creation of a national standardised cyberbullying prevention and intervention curriculum, which would include online safety instruction and would be deployed to schools, sports clubs, youth clubs, on-line training, advertisements, marketing, parenting, etc. nationwide.
More information in relation to the context of the bill, further information and reasoning behind the recommendations can be found in the report here.