Seanad debates

Friday, 30 April 2021

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


10:00 am

Photo of John McGahonJohn McGahon (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I was coming down here today to talk about a different issue, was looking at my Instagram and saw a post from Kasper Schmeichel, whose father was one of my idols growing up. His Instagram is in a social media blackout from 3 p.m. today until Monday night. I did not realise this was happening, perhaps because here in Ireland I am slightly removed from it. It is a social media blackout that every Premiership footballer, every Formula 1 driver, including Lewis Hamilton, every member of the English rugby team and the English Premiership are doing in solidarity with Thierry Henry, who went off social media in March because of the racist abuse and horrific online abuse sports players are receiving. It is great to see so many people in sport coming together to take on social media companies. Their claims about it are quite simple. They want the re-registration of abusive people online stopped. They want to ensure no anonymous accounts are allowed on Twitter. They want to ensure there are real-life consequences for people who regularly engage in online abuse. It is brilliant to see such solidarity in the UK sporting community.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Representatives from Twitter were before it. I asked them what the thought process is behind anonymous accounts. The guy replied that Twitter is very important in allowing democracies to overthrow Third World dictators in far-flung parts of the world. That was the case in 2011 during the Libyan uprising when people did organise on Twitter. However, it is not the case ten years on because people are organising on stuff like Parler, which are beneath the ether in terms of online discourse. It is not Twitter anymore. There are no despots being overthrown around the world because of Twitter so it is not a good enough excuse anymore. I would love to see something like the blackout in this country, whether it was politicians or other members of civil society, or indeed if it was people from the League of Ireland, Irish rugby and the GAA engaging in a similar campaign. I take this opportunity to commend it.


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