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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 19 February, 2020
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TD: Watching neknominations clip was "one of the most disturbing experiences of my life"

Derek Keating asked for an ‘emergency intervention’ to crack down on the social media craze. He was told that would be “simply impossible”.

Image: Oireachtas.ie

A FINE GAEL TD’s call for the Government to stage an “emergency intervention” in order to remove all mention of ‘neknominations‘ from Facebook and other social media sites was rejected in the Dáil this afternoon, with a junior minister telling the deputy it was “simply impossible”.

Derek Keating, who represents Dublin Mid West, said the subject was “one of the most important topical issues I will table” and appeared to become emotional at times as he implored the Cabinet to take action on the issue.

He said he had been “challenged” by students at Lucan Community College to “look at and study” the issues surrounding the drinking craze and other potential dangers posed by social media.

“I can honestly say it was one of the most disturbing experiences of my life to date,” Keating said.

He told the chamber he had watched “a clip of three or four minutes” and had “difficulty containing myself in my seat while I watched it”.

Keating said that while he was aware adults used social media from time to time “young people are on it continuously”

He said peer pressure was being brought to bear on teenagers, who were being coerced into accepting drinking challenges as they feared they would lose friends from their social media circles if they declined such dares.

Addressing Minister for Training and Skills Ciarán Cannon, who was standing in for Communications Minisiter Pat Rabbitte, he called for “intervention from the very top” on the issue.

“We need regulation for social media and we need it now.”

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[Oireachtas.ie]

In a prepared response, Cannon said that the issue was “far from simple”, and stressed that — given the nature of the internet — it wasn’t possible to introduce a regulatory system “akin to that for broadcast media”.

“Social media are categorically not a bad thing. They enrich the lives of thousands of people every day,” Cannon said.

He highlighted Government initiatives to raise awareness of net safety, and said Minister Rabbitte was already tackling the issue through the Internet Governance Advisory Group, which was set up in December of last year.

The group of experts has been asked to come up with specific recommendations about laws around sharing material online, and the relationship between online service providers, ISPs, the State and citizens over legal material and bullying online. It’s due to report back in May.

Cannon also said that “the key issue here is our attitude to alcohol in this country”.

The junior minister said the issue was “multi-faceted” but that “a coordinated response is under way across all Government Departments” and pointed to to the coalition’s moves to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, amongst other measures.

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Ciarán Cannon [Image: Oireachtas.ie]

On the specific issue of social media, he said there were “no simple answers” and that the advisory group would evaluate all issues “thoughtfully and in detail”.

Emergency

Keating thanked the Minister of State for his response , and said he was aware of the “positiveness” associated with the use of social media.

However, he said he wanted to focus on the dangers.

We have an emergency. Emergency intervention is required.

He again spoke of the “huge amounts of peer pressures involved”  and the “online shaming of people who do not take part”.

“There are many other social network options coming down the line and we must be prepared for those too,” Keating said.

“I’ve written to the principals of each of the second level schools in my constituency, and I’m asking them to give what they consider to be their best advice on how to respond, before we have more deaths.

“There must be regulation of Facebook and there must be regulation of other social networks”

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[Oireachtas.ie]

Back on his feet for a second response, Cannon said that the deputy’s suggestion that “we somehow shut down all social media” connected with neknominations was:

“Simply impossible to do.

“If we decided tomorrow morning to somehow to convince Facebook to remove all references to neknominations on that particular social media website there is no reason but to expect that our young people, with the talent and the creativity that they have, would simply move to create their own social media opportunities to engage in what some would regard as quite juvenile behaviour, and behaviour that one wouldn’t wish one’s sons or daughters to be involved in.

However, he said, “it wouldn’t be possible to shut down communication on that basis” as:

“That’s the way the internet works. That’s the way it will always work

He stressed the need for further education in how to use social media safely and said he was:

“More than confident that young people themselves are more than capable of highlighting the various challenges around these neknominations.

“They’re well capable of responding and showing the very positive force social media can be.”

Read: Gardaí investigate if TD assistant removed ‘thousands’ of newspapers from shops

Read: FG TD who was told not to help with communion insists he’s ‘very much pro-life’

Read: Neknomination ‘just one small aspect’ of Ireland’s harmful drinking culture

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