Senators Lorraine Higgins, Ivana Bacik and John Whelan are this evening bringing a Private Members Bill before the Seanad.
The ‘Harmful and Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015’, according to the unelectable Higgins, “aims to protect against and mitigate harm caused to individuals by all or any digital communications”.
Thing is, so-called cyber bullying is already covered by two pieces of legislation – Prohibition to Incitement of Hatred Act and the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act as pointed out in a brief overview by the Digital Rights Ireland group here.
The proposed legislation is so vague as to be unworkable and dangerous. It proposes (Sec. 4) to criminalise persistently sharing electronic communications which cause distress, or alarm, whether intentionally or recklessly caused. For instance, Lorraine Higgins shared photoshopped images of her political rival, Luke Ming Flanagan, during the European election campaign. She persistently shared images of Ming altered to make him look like a turkey with the strapline “Don’t send another turkey to Europe”.
If the unelected senator did this after her bill was made law and found guilty she might face a fine of up to €5,000 or a prison sentence of up to 12 months; according to section three a communication is judged “harmful” if “it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.” #PrayForMing
Section 5 of the unnecessary and vexatious proposal is the death of it. It proposes punishment for someone found not guilty which can include the same fine of €5,000 or 12months imprisonment if they don’t comply with an order such as “sharing an apology”, “deleting specific electronic communications”(!) or a proximity & communication barring order.
Kafka would love the Seanad.
In contrast to this dangerous piece of nonsense, Digital Rights Ireland have published their thorough and exhaustive submission to the Law Reform Commission on cyber bullying and harassment – read it here.
Extracts from Section 4 & 5 are below.