Ireland gets tough on trolls – abusers could face jail terms of up to five years and fines of €75k

20 Apr 2015

Ireland is going to get tough on internet trolls, with proposed new legal powers that could see judges impose fines of up to €75,000 and jail terms of up to five years on people convicted of trolling, bullying or abusing others online.

Under the Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Bill 2015, judges could soon have the power to impose stiff fines and prison sentences on people found to have sent “harmful” electronic communications to others.

These include messages that incite hatred or encourage people to commit suicide.

Under the proposed legislation it will also be an offence to send “explicit” content to another person online.

The bill, which amends section 13 of the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951, will target offences that involve the use of electronic communications networks – from SMS to Twitter or Facebook – to send messages that are indecent, obscene or false, which are calculated to cause anxiety.

Beating the bullies

The bill was tabled by Senator Lorraine Higgins, who was targeted by cyberbullies on Facebook with messages that included death threats and threats to family members.

Jail terms under the new bill could range from one year to five years and fines can go up to €75,000. Judges may also have the power to have offenders’ technology seized.

The move echoes similar moves in the UK, where harsher sentences were introduced in October by the UK’s justice secretary Chris Grayling. For example, internet users found guilty of revenge porn could be hit with sentences of up to 14 years.

In recent months, the CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, admitted the social network “sucked” at dealing with abuse by trolls on the platform and that enough was enough. Twitter has since updated its terms and conditions to expressly prohibit the posting of revenge porn or nude pictures without the subject’s consent.

It has also modified its abusive behaviour policy whereby users may not make threats of violence against others or threats based on race, sexual orientation, gender, age or disability.

Arrested image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years