Human rights organisation calls for state to address online harassment in Ireland

Roisin Phelan

Calls are being made for the State to address online harassment.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has warned that justice is not being served to victims of online harassment and that perpetrators are going unpunished.

The group called for amendments to be made to the Non-fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997 which covers and criminalises harassment, stalking, coercion, threats and endangerment

The act says that, “Any person who, without lawful authority reasonable excuse, by any means including by the use of telephone, harasses another by persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating with him or her, shall be guilty of an offence.”

The ICCL has said that the “language [in the act] is not always directly transferable to cases of online harassment.”

The group said: “The requirement that harassment consists of ‘persistently following, watching, pestering, besetting or communicating’ means the prosecution has to prove a pattern of harassment.”

“The absence of effective laws criminalising online harassment means the perpetrators often go unpunished and victims are left without protection or justice.”

This comes after cases of harassment have come to the public’s attention. Most notably the recent jailing of a man who harassed female writers and journalists for years. 

One of the victims Sarah Griffin, voiced the impact the ordeal had on her life on Twitter saying, “I am a different person because this happened to me & because of the duration of this experience. I wonder what kind of person I could have grown into without this threat.”

 According to Crime Victims Helpline, confidential support to victims of crime in Ireland, “Harassment is unwanted pattern of behaviour that can leave you feeling intimidated, scared, annoyed and/or humiliated.”

There have also been calls to legislate social media platforms due to an increase in revenge porn and cyberbullying among youth. 

CEO of SpunOut.ie, a youth information website that aims to “educate and inform” young people, Ian Power has said social media platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat  “must have a legal responsibility” to users.

He said Spunout have encountered an escalation in the number of cases where organisations like these have not complied with young people’s requests to take down images.  

Power said SpunOunt.ie try to work with big social media organisations to try and encourage them to take more responsibility for the activities taking place on their platforms, but said that there are “limits” to how much they can work together. 

Roisin Phelan

Image Credit: RTE