Gardaí, Government, and Eir launch cyberbullying information campaign

Jackie Fox has been campaigning to make cyberbullying a crime after she lost her daughter, Nicole, to suicide following prolonged cyberbullying and harassment.

The gardaí and the Government have joined forces with Eir to launch a new cyberbullying information campaign.

The internet provider has produced an information leaflet and website to help inform parents, guardians and young people on steps to take if they are concerned about cyberbullying or online harassment.

On Safer Internet Day 2019, Assistant Garda Commissioner John O’Driscoll said: “An Garda Síochána is aware that cyberbullying can have a significant impact on people’s lives and is committed to tackling it in an impactful way.

“We would encourage victims of cyberbullying to report the bullies and provide us with the evidence which will help to ensure other people will not become victims of this terrible behaviour.”

Those behind the campaign said that, although more prevalent amongst young people, cyberbullying can happen to anyone at any age.

Campaigner Jackie Fox lost her 21-year-old daughter Nicole, also known as Coco, to suicide last year following a prolonged campaign of bullying and harassment. She has been campaigning to make cyberbullying a crime.

“Cyberbullying can have a devastating effect on those targeted, particularly more vulnerable people such as children and young adults,” said Ms Fox.

“The current legislation is outdated, written for a time before social media and messaging apps, and in need of urgent reform.

Today is an important step in the right direction because we are highlighting the issue and the support available. We probably can’t end cyberbullying completely but we can reduce its frequency and its harmful effects through education, discussion and a zero-tolerance approach.

The Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Bill 2017 is currently making its way through the Oireachtas.

The legislation, also known as ‘Coco’s Law’ in memory of Nicole, will consolidate and reform the criminal law concerning harmful communications, including electronic communications.

Cyberbullying is defined as the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person.

Eir CEO Carolan Lennon said internet companies who can meaningfully help tackle the issue must do so.

“The internet and how we use it is evolving every day,” said Ms Lennon. “We are connected everywhere and at all times. 

"But legislation is struggling to keep pace with this ever-developing world of online services, apps and social media.

“We are currently working on changing our terms and conditions for new customers to include our zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment.

“We will also assist An Garda Síochána in cases of cyberbullying when needed and provide guidance to our customers by means of this information campaign and a dedicated webpage.”

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