March 24, 2022
Sinn Féin announce Bill to hold social media giants to account and protect people from online abuse – Martin Kenny TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice Martin Kenny TD has announced the party will bring forward legislation in the Dáil today, to prevent social media accounts being used to anonymously defame, abuse and harass people.  
The Social Media Platforms (Defamation Amendment) Bill follows similar moves recently announced in Australia which aim to bring an end to online harassment and defamation, and hold social media platforms financially responsible. This legislation will hold the social media platform accountable for the defamation if they fail to or refuse to divulge the real identify of the account holder who has made the defamatory statements.
 
Speaking this morning, Teachta Kenny said:
 
“Online abuse and harassment are unacceptable but are sadly all too common. Many people feel intimidated when using online platforms due to the way in which trolls are able to act with impunity. 
 
“I have been working on this Bill extensively to ensure that robust and workable legislation is in place to address this growing issue. This bill will see social media platforms held financially responsible for defamation in cases where they cannot provide accurate identification of the online abuser or troll. 
 
“While it is not a criminal conviction, it will motivate social media platforms to ensure their verification processes are strengthened.  Not only will this allow the victim of online abuse to hold online abusers to account civilly, it will also discourage those who hide behind anonymous accounts from abusing and harassing others online.
 
“It is important to strike a balance between free speech and harassment. It is acceptable for people to have an opinion, however what is completely unacceptable is to defame, harass, or intimidate another person – be that in person or through social media.
 
“Recently the Australian government made it law for their courts system to order a social media company to disclose the identity of a user who the court decide have breached defamation or harassment law. The change in their laws also holds social media companies liable for defamation costs if it is a case that they are unable to identify the user who is responsible for the offensive material. 
 
“Ireland has made some progress in this regard. The recently introduced Coco’s Law finally caught up with those who use intimate image-based abuse as a form of control or harassment over current or ex partners. We now have a chance to hold those who abuse or harass others online to account. Our laws must be fit for the 21st century and the digital era.
 
“Following extensive research and consultation on this issue, I have concluded that the most effective way to ensure identity compliance from social media giants is to include a potential financial sanction for any companies who do not abide by the rules of identification. 
 
“If a social media company’s policy on verifying identities is so lax that they are unable to adequately identify a user who is using their platform to abuse another person online, they need to be held financially accountable for that.
 
“Sinn Féin’s legislation will empower people to ensure they can be safe from online abuse and harassment. Trolling is never acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue due to government complacency. We must ensure that no-one is allowed to intimidate or harass people on social media without being held to account. Social media companies have a key responsibility in all of this.
 
“I am urging all TDs to back Sinn Féin’s legislation, so that these important protections can become a reality.”

The Social Media Platforms (Defamation Amendment) Bill is available to view here
 

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