Thursday, 17 December 2020
Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Report and Final Stages
I thank the Government and Opposition for the timely introduction of this vital legislation. The amendments that I and others have suggested at various Stages of this Bill reflect our engagement with victims and survivor groups who took the very brave step to share their personal experiences.
There is a remaining key issue that needs to be addressed in this law. Deepfaking, that is, making images of fake events, for example, the addition of intimate images of body parts onto photos of a person without the person's knowledge or consent, is a common and very harmful form of image-based sexual abuse. Once online, such images can be impossible to have removed and, although faked, do real harm to victims and their lives. To address this specifically, I have been advised that the Minister of State needs to accept any of amendments Nos. 1, 2, 5 or 6. We are very close to having comprehensive legislation to tackle image-based sexual abuse. Can we please make that final step and add one of the amendments to provide that reassurance to victims?
We have to look at the larger cultural changes as well. Over recent weeks, discussions of image-based sexual abuse have involved forms of victim blaming. The sharing of intimate images without the full consent of the people in them is wrong. It will soon be a crime and it needs to be treated like that socially too. We need a zero-tolerance approach. Will the Minister of State please include some of those amendments, and will he respond to that when he speaks?