Published: Wed, 05 February 2014
I wish to clarify comments made as part of a wide-ranging interview in wich among others, the issue of “NekNominations” was discussed. I condemned the practice, in light of recent tragedies and pointed to positive trends such as “Nice Nominations” which have spontaneous appeared in recent days to counter the irresponsible alcohol-fuelled version.
The comments I made in relation to monitoring and control were in reference to the very serious issue of cyber-bullying which I have been working on for over a year. This refers to bullying in the online context as well as the criminal abuse of people online. My comments referred to my work as Industry Committee Rapporteur on Data Protection
I believe that there should be strong and clear rules to counteract cyber bullying online, all the while respecting the freedom of the internet. We cannot prevent cyber bullying through legal and police methods (we can do this through education and public awareness campaigns, which I have been active in organising), however we can come down strongly on perpetrators once they are identified.
Of course, social media are just that in this context – the media of communication, not the instigators of this abuse, so we need to police them in the same way any social gathering is policed, with discretion and respecting personal freedom and civil liberties, but nevertheless providing a remedy for victims of illegal and defamatory online abuse. This is the point which I wished to convey and I would appreciate it if commenters on this post would accept my clarification.
I would never advocate active and pre-emptive monitoring of the internet and indeed I have advocated including an amendment to the General Data Protection Regulation, the so-called “Anti-Net-Tapping Clause“, to prevent the NSA in future from riding roughshod over the carefully constructed civil rights of EU citizens. The internet is a great, free and open public space. We have benefitted as a society enormously from this freedom, but those who feel abused should have a legal remedy should they wish abusive comments or images to be removed from the online world. This is a delicate balance that we need to respect day in, day out.
It is most unfortunate that my comments in relation to tackling the curse of cyber-bullying were misunderstood as referring to an attempt to police legal, though foolish, internet phenomena such as the practice of “neknomination”.
Alcohol abuse is a serious social issue in Ireland and must be addressed as such.
Similarly, cyber-bullying is a growing serious issue across Europe, I hope the Cyber-Bullying Forum I am hosting in Bray on Friday morning will further raise awareness of the issue.