Social media giants face grilling over cyberbullying

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube chiefs face being called to give evidence before Oireachtas members over cyberbullying and to outline actions the firms are taking to protect users.

The Oireachtas Committee on Communications has also discussed inviting the Data Protection Commissioner to the series of hearings to be held in the coming months.

TDs and senators agreed on the planned hearings yesterday, which were called for following the death of junior agriculture minister Shane McEntee, who took his own life last month.

The late Meath TD’s family criticised contributors to online forums who, it was claimed, attacked the father-of-four in the aftermath of the budget.

Oireachtas members yesterday discussed the possibility of reviewing recent legal cases taken by businessman Declan Ganley and failed presidential candidate Sean Gallagher over tweets.

Mr Ganley agreed an out-of-court settlement over comments made about him on Twitter, while Mr Gallagher has begun legal action against RTÉ after a controversial tweet was read out during a televised debate in Oct 2011.

Oireachtas committee member Sean Kenny said members had discussed inviting the three online giants to hearings. Research will first be carried out on how other countries have dealt with concerns over the use of social media.

Another member told the Irish Examiner: “We’re going to explore, during a series of hearings, the responsible use of social media by the industry. We’ll find out the existing protections, legal challenges there, but will research it first.

“We’re going to look at online social media in other countries and how they’re dealing with abuse. This is about ordinary members of the public and how they seek redress.”

Meanwhile, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett yesterday reminded Dáil members of the death of Mr McEntee and said statements of sympathy would be heard at a later stage.

“In accordance with the wishes of the family at this time, expressions of sympathy will be heard at a future date, on which members will have an opportunity to express their condolences.”

Fine Gael last night held a minute’s silence at its weekly parliamentary party meeting, at which Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke of Mr McEntee’s passion for politics and the sadness experienced by his family.

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