There is no legislating for empathy or simple humanity – Naughton

-   Hildegarde Naughton TD

There is no legislating for empathy or simple humanity in relation to sharing images on messaging apps and social media, a Fine Gael TD has said.

Chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, Hildegarde Naughton, said that while the Oireachtas will legislate to prevent such actions to the extent of its ability, people must also take responsibility for their own sharing actions.

The Galway TD’s comments came after images of a fatal collision on Dublin’s M50 were shared on WhatsApp.

Deputy Naughton said: “First of all, my sympathies go to the family of all those involved and particularly to that of the woman who lost her life.

“The spreading of video of this tragedy is not something that any right thinking person could condone.

“It was an intolerable intrusion in to the grief of those families affected.

“It’s absolutely incredible that An Garda Síochána had to publically ask for such images not to be shared.”

Deputy Naughton continued: “I understand that images of the incident were not immediately removed from Facebook. That is simply unacceptable.

“It is yet another example of why the Communications Committee, which I chair, is right to prioritise its consideration of the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill.

“This Bill, when enacted, will provide for an independent “take down” mechanism which will have powers to make social media companies take down such images.

“While the Oireachtas will legislate to prevent such actions to the extent of our abilities, there is no legislating for empathy or simple humanity.

“In relation to Whatsapp sharing, we must realise that it is a phone to phone messaging service and regulating it effectively will be hugely problematic.

“We are a western democracy, not a dictatorship,  and banning the application would not be a practical solution.

“However, what the Oireachtas can do is to ensure that there is proper regulation and to investigate whether it would be possible to penalise those sharing such harmful images.

“I will be travelling to Canada in May to another meeting of the International Grand Committee on Social Media, and they will travel to Ireland in November.  Such sharing of harmful images and videos will form part of our discussions to see if we can move at an international level to lessen the harm social media platforms can do when not regulated.”

ENDS

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