During the summer, Epilepsy Ireland addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media on the proposed Online Safety & Media Regulation Bill.
We highlighted the need for the proposed legislation to include in its definition of “online harmful content” a particularly disgusting form of online trolling which has presented in both the US & UK, whereby people with photosensitive epilepsy are targeted with flashing images or videos designed to trigger a seizure.
The Oireachtas Committee has now published their final report following the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. While the argument and points we raised with the Committee are included in the final report, we are extremely disappointed that no specific recommendation has been made in the report to make these types of attacks punishable under the proposed legislation. The Committee's report is available for download at the end of this article.
While the pre-legislative scrutiny of this bill is final, we will continue to seek that the necessary amendments are made to the legislation to ensure that those who might engage in these type of attacks are discouraged from doing so, and where needed, are appropriately punished.
We will be contacting TDs when the Bill returns to the Dáil for first stage and in advance of that, we have also written to Minister Catherine Martin outlining our concerns and seeking that the necessary amendments are made. Our correspondence to the Minister is available to read at the end of this article.
As part of the Committee hearing that we attended, we highlighted how this issue was not commonplace in Ireland at that time. However, we warned that it was likely to present here at some stage.
Unfortunately, this week our prediction became a reality. Our Twitter account was tagged with a flashing image and video, quite clearly in the hope that it would be seen by our followers. This is a perfect example of the kind of deliberate attack we warned legislators about and shows why this issue must be legislated for in the upcoming legislation. At present, the definition of “online harmful content” includes material which is a criminal offence to disseminate; cyberbullying material; and material promoting self-harm or eating disorders. However, it does not appear to include the dissemination of material which is in itself designed to cause direct harm.
We will continue our campaign to ensure that the necessary amendments are made.
You can watch the points we made to the Committee on Media in the video below: