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Report calls for new Internet laws

Tuesday, June 24 15:00:14

The Expert Group report on Internet Content Governance was published today with 30 recommendations for new online controls on privacy invasion and cyber bullying.

The Minister for Communications Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, had tasked the group to consider a number of issues arising for society, and in particular for children and young people, from the dramatic growth in internet use over the last decade, and particularly since the advent of affordable internet connected mobile devices.

They were asked to deal with the issues of bullying and harassment online and issues around age inappropriate viewing of content.

It called for the amendment of the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007 to include 'electronic communications' within the definition of measures dealing with the 'sending of messages which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing'.

The report also recommended the setting up of a review of the suitability of current discovery and disclosure rules of court to ensure that these processes are suitable for cases involving online media.

It said that the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources should be formally charged with coordinating Internet content policy at government level in addition to its extant roles in dealing with these issues at an international level.

Responsibility for the governance of online media on demand in accordance with the provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive should be assigned to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, it recommended.

An inter-agency working group should be established by the Department of Education and Skills in conjunction with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to identify appropriate mechanisms to ensure that Internet safety and digital literacy skills are taught as a core element of the curriculum at both primary and post-primary levels.

Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) should be encouraged to include parental control products and services as part of their consumer offering, it said.

An awareness-raising campaign to encourage parents to make more use of the array of parental controls should be developed as a collaborative initiative of National Parent Councils, youth representative organisations, children's charities and industry should be set up, it said.

It called for a 'family-friendly' logo to designate the use of filtering of adult or other age-inappropriate content for public Wi-Fi access points should be developed.

The Group called for an awareness-raising by relevant agencies and by industry should provide authoritative guidance and support targeted at specific groups of users likely to access potentially harmful content.

The Minister reflected today on the wide ranging recommendations of the report which include changes to institutional, legislative and administrative governance arrangements and praised the Group's proactive and consultative approach in preparing the report:

"My thanks go to the Group's Chairperson Dr Brian O'Neill who deftly steered the work of the Group and indeed to all the Group members who freely donated their time and expertise to this important contribution to policy formation on internet content governance in this country."

The Minister also announced the formation of an implementation group chaired by his Department and comprising representatives of the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills, Justice and Equality, and Health, who will agree on and oversee the implementation of the ICGA Group recommendations. The Minister state that "I am encouraged by the response of my Cabinet colleagues to the proposals contained within this report, and I am confident that we will have comprehensive set of actions agreed on this very soon."

It is anticipated that this implementation group will conclude their work within 4 months.