Seanad debates

Friday, 18 December 2020

Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017: Committee and Remaining Stages


10:00 am

Mary Seery Kearney (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I agree with Senator Doherty that three years is too long to wait for a review. We need to find ourselves in uncomfortable place as legislators. Once we are dealing with a legislative topic that is online and involves evolving technology then we will have to have an inbuilt review within a much shorter timeframe. I believe we should have annual review in order to anticipate and get ahead of the new forms of abuse and uses. Technology moves ahead of us all of the time. Every time I think I have mastered various platforms and gained knowledge about the different areas, ways and means of communications and abuse something else comes up. I look forward to the day when my daughter is old enough to educate me about what else is going on out there. One must adapt by keeping one's head in different generations and learn different ways and means of communication all the time. At one of the cyberbullying information forums I facilitated, as a councillor, we said that one must peruse the App download to see what young people are downloading so one can stay ahead of how they communicate with each other.

On Second Stage there was talk about a moral basis. We have got to somehow put in an ethical framework that reflects the best of public policy. However, in light of the fact that technology constantly evolves and changes, we need to sit in our discomfort and decide to review this to make it better all of the time and to respond at least on an annual basis. I will very much welcome a miscellaneous provisions Bill in the next couple of months.The online safety and media regulation Bill will pick up some of these issues and some of the overarching framework and guidelines that are required.

I thank the Minister of State for taking on board what purports to be a very important amendment in the Dáil. I support that, but I think it will be difficult and we will always be living with that tension from now on in some of these areas of law. It is a new place for us to be in. We would like to sign off on something and feel it is done and dusted, but it is not going to be, and that is unfortunate.


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