Action has to be taken to stop the bullying and harassment of people on social media, declared South Tipperary TD Tom Hayes.
People had to be made accountable for what they were saying,stated the South Tipp TD who has taken on the task of tackling cyber bullying on social network sites as chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communication.
The government has tasked the committee with investigating cyber bullying and drawing up a report that will recommend new legislation.
The move to tackle cyber bullying was made in the wake of the death of Junior Minister Shane McEntee.
The Meath deputy took his own life with his angry family adamant that internet abuse was a factor in his death.
The move also follows the tragic deaths of Donegal sisters Shannon and Erin Gallagher who committed suicide within six weeks of each other.
A report on cyber bullying and the influence of social media websites like Twitter and Facebook on public debate will be compiled by the committee on Transport and Communications.
Deputy Hayes said that cyber-bullying was a huge issue, particularly for young people.
“This thing can’t be left go unchecked, where people can put up vile comments and get away with it.”
The committee can also call witnesses in before it. Deputy Hayes stated: “The aim is to produce a report that will help the Government if it wants to draw up legislation or regulations to deal with the issue.”
The committee will make a report to Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte early next year.
The Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications is shortly to invite submissions and expressions of interest from individuals and groups on the Oireachtas website. This will be followed by private and public hearings.
Committee chairman Tom Hayes said he was concerned about the growth of cyber bullying and abusive remarks generally made on social media.
“People have to be made accountable for what they are saying,” he added. “Members of the public across a wide section of Irish life are being subjected to bullying and harassment.”
Deputy Hayes stressed the committee was not responding solely to the strong language used against politicians in the aftermath of the budget and on abortion and other issues.
“Politicians are just one group of people affected by this,” he said. “Everybody from young children to business people are also being targeted.”
Deputy Hayes said he did not envisage the 20-member committee engaging in a long process before compiling a report. “I would hope we would have it ready by the end of January or early February,” he said. “We want to see how extensive the abuse is and suggest what regulations might be put in place if they are found to be necessary.”
He said that while he did not want to anticipate what the committee would decide, new legislation might be required to curb some of the “vile” comments made about people.
Deputy Hayes said that massive interest had been expressed by the public on the matter since the move was announced by the government.
“An incredible amount of groups have been on to the committee already to register their intention to have an input.What is frightening is the amount of parents that are concerned by it and the ampount of teachers who face this issue every day in the classroom.The fierce problems this issue is creating is very evident and it is of huge concern”.