Facebook, Sky fight laws over internet regulation. [ Irish Examiner, by Juno McEnroe, 30/6/2014 ]

The firms are opposing any new laws for online safety and have made their views known in submissions to a government internet advisory group, the Irish Examiner has learned.

Last week, the internet Content Governance Advisory Group advised that limited legislative changes be made, despite recommendations by children’s rights advocates for new laws to block pornography and regulate internet service providers.

Facebook, in its submission, said it contacted gardaí where “child exploitation images” were found on users’ pages. It pledged to roll out an anti-bullying hub, launched in the US last year, in Ireland shortly.

It said it encouraged the Government to “consider adopting a multi-stakeholder model for co-ordination and dissemination of good practices, rather than enact new laws”.

Broadband provider Sky told the group: “Given the cross-border nature of the internet, and the volume of content provided from outside of Ireland, it is difficult to see how stringent regulatory rules on internet content can be effective.”

Its customers wanted to be responsible for what they and their children viewed, it said, and a combination of education and use of technical parental controls were best.

However, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said the lack of regulation of internet providers meant child abuse materials were “readily viewable” within Ireland.

Effective website filtering was done in China and by music companies trying to reduce piracy, it noted.

It said specific legislation was needed to tackle cyberbullying.

Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, recommended stricter regulation to tackle online racism. Online racism was difficult to prosecute, it said, noting a case it had reported to the gardaí involving Facebook.

Gardaí were unclear how to handle online racism, it said, and new laws were needed to address online hate crimes.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte discussed the advisory group’s report with the Cabinet last week. The group said it had held off recommending strict measures, such as those adopted in Britain where internet providers will now have to adopt filtering blocks on adult websites and content.

The group recommended criminalising offensive online messages but held back proposing any large-scale legislative reform.

Mr Rabbitte said he and the group had approached the review in a co-operative way with the internet industry.

However, he said: “The industry don’t have a vested interest in abuse and misuse of the technology any more than we do.

“I think it would be difficult for the Government to take effective measures without the co-operation of the industry unless one is saying that you can decree and make law, but that kind of intrusion is running counter to the spirit of what we are trying to do here and would run counter to the fundamental cornerstone of the freedom of expression.”