WOMEN involved in high level sports are more likely to be subjected to social media abuse and harassment than their male counterparts, a high-level sports meeting at Leinster House has heard.
Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton, Chair of the Oireachtas Communications Committee, met today with representatives from several Irish sporting bodies who spoke about social media use surrounding their games, players and athletes.
Meeting Deputy Naughton were former Leinster and Harlequins rugby player Simon Keogh of Rugby Players Ireland, Rachael McGuire of Sport Ireland along with former Dublin footballer Paul Flynn and Westmeath footballer Jennifer Rogers of the Gaelic Players Association.
In light of ongoing reports of serious harassment and bullying of sports players and coaches, Deputy Naughton invited all to the meeting to discuss their experiences and concerns.
“The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the forthcoming Government legislation providing for a Digital Safety Commissioner and how it can combat the level of online abuse that has negatively impacted on sports, at all levels, in Ireland,” Deputy Naughton said.
“The Digital Safety Commissioner will have the duty to regulate social media and the power to take down harmful communications. The Heads of Bill to establish such an office are currently being drafted.
“Today’s meeting heard women also more likely to be targeted than men for online abuse and harassment – often by nameless keyboard warriors. This can impact players and coaches both mentally and physically in a very negative fashion.
“Events relayed to me included a player not being able to work after he was targeted on social media. It is extremely concerning that people who give pleasure to thousands and thousands every week up and down the country are subjected to such vile abuse. In many cases, these players or athletes are participating in team or individual sports at their own financial cost.
“It was a very productive discussion covering a wide range of issues faced by sports persons while engaging with social media. It is reflective of a wider problem of social media being used to bully and harass people in their everyday lives,” Deputy Naughton said.
The sporting organisations have agreed to work with Deputy Naughton in ensuring that the forthcoming legislation is the most robust possible, while acknowledging the right to freedom of expression.