The issue we were campaigning on in relation to this bill has now been clarified. However, on this page you can find a brief overview of the issue and our work on this matter.
The ethos behind this proposed bill is to protect people from harmful content when they are online. In monitoring progress of this bill, Epilepsy Ireland noted that it could be an avenue to use to protect those with photosensitive epilepsy when they are online.
What was our concern?
Our concerns arose from well-known cases in the UK and the US, where people with photosensitive epilepsy were specifically targeted online with flashing images or videos designed to trigger a seizure in that person. While attacks of this type have not been prevalent in Ireland, we were concerned that they could eventually make their way to our shores. For further information on these types of attack, we have linked to associated media coverage of a high profile case in the UK.
- 2019 - BBC News - People with epilepsy targeted in Twitter attack
- 2020 - Metro UK - Trolls attack boy with epilepsy, 8, by sending him hundreds of flashing images
What we wanted
The proposed legislation had no definition which classed this type of attack as an online harm. Therefore, we believed that the legislation should have included a definition of these attacks as harmful online content. However, throughout our representations on this matter, we acknowledged that it was unclear how existing laws would class attacks of this type.
What did Epilepsy Ireland do?
After raising the matter directly with TDs and Senators, and with the help of our volunteers and supporters raising the matter with their local TDs and Senators, we were invited to discuss this matter with the Oireachtas Committee on Media as part of their pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. You can see our presentation in the video below….
Following the conclusion of the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, the Oireachtas Committee on Media issued their final report on all the evidence they heard throughout this process. Although our presentation to the Committee was referenced in the final report, no specific recommendation was made regarding the type of online harm we outlined.
Therefore, we brought our campaign to the attention of the Minister responsible for introducing this legislation – Deputy Catherine Martin. It was here where our campaign on this matter reached its conclusion.
Following our correspondence with the Minister, in her response, it was confirmed for the first time that attacks like the ones we outlined would be deemed assault under existing laws. Having secured this clarification, we were satisfied that should anyone commit these heinous deliberate attacks online, existing legislation is in place to prosecute them. Thank you to everyone who supported our campaign on this matter and to those who raised the issue with their local TDs and Senators.
News Updates on this Issue
The below are some of the updates on this matter as it progressed and associated articles in the news section of our website where you can read more.
- January 2022 - Attorney – General confirms deliberate online attacks on people with photosensitive epilepsy are a criminal offence.
- October 2021 - Update on Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill
- June 2021 - Epilepsy Ireland present to Oireachtas Committee on Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill.
- May 2021 - Epilepsy Ireland to address Oireachtas Committee on Media regarding Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill
- May 2021 - #EpilepsyWeek Day 5 - Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill