THE IMMIGRANT COUNCIL of Ireland (ICI) has called on the government to ratify an international convention against cybercrime, in an effort to ensure the protection of human rights online and to clamp down on online abuse.
The body has demanded that the government ratify the International Convention on Cybercrime, a convention of the Council of Europe which has been in force since 2004.
Ireland signed the convention in 2002 but has yet to ratify it, ten years on. It is one of ten countries which have signed the convention but not yet ratified it. 38 countries, including three outside of Europe – the US, Japan and Australia – have also ratified it.
The calls come as the Oireachtas communications committee prepares to hold a series of hearings on the role of online communications in abuse and bullying.
Online abuse has been cited as one of the factors behind the recent death of junior minister Shane McEntee, who took his own life, and in the deaths of teenage Donegal sisters Erin and Shannon Gallagher.
ICI chief executive Denise Charlton said a legal framework was necessary to protect online human rights.
Concern at ‘more sinister side’
“Whilst most users of the internet have no malicious intentions, there is concern that the more sinister side, in the form of trolls may use online fora, boards and websites to spread and incite hate messages,” she said.
“Increasing and unrestricted internet access provides a platform to learn and share but can also be used to harass, bully and intimate.”
Charlton said while the ICI understood the importance of freedom of speech in a democratic society, there was a responsibility to ensure this was not abused.
“Online hate speech needs to be confronted,” she said. ”Many tolerate online hate speech as they may not know how to report it.
She added that it was essential to ensure that the internet was used constructively, and not “be hijacked by those who seek to spread racial hatred, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance”.
In 2007, the then-justice minister Brian Lenihan said the government had intended to bring in legislation which would give legal effect to the convention within Ireland. No such legislation was ever introduced, however.