Growing calls for ’age verification’ measures on social media in light of ’predatory’ cases

Experts have suggested that the current discussion around age verification on social media is a positive step towards making the internet a safer place.

Yesterday Dublin man, Matthew Horan, was found guilty of forcing young girls as young as nine into sending pictures of themselves on social media.

The case has prompted fresh calls for people to hand social networks their PPS numbers to prove their age.

Naoise Kavanagh from youth mental health website said age verification was a huge issue and agreed something needs to be done.

"Something really has to be done. Something quite rigorous and something stringent like a PPS number ... I think that is quite a positive thing."

Enereing the debate  Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Timmy Dooley has written to the Oireachtas Communications Committee requesting that the Chief Executives of all major digital communications companies attend to outline how they will protect children using their platforms.

Deputy Dooley added: “The reticence of the Taoiseach to establish a Digital Safety Commissioner seems to be driven by an apparent unwillingness to invest in protecting our children. I do not believe that a price can ever be put on our children’s safety, ever.

“In the absence of the Taoiseach, and the Minister, moving to establish such a Commissioner, I have requested that the CEOs of technology companies that provide communications services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Kik come before the committee.

“They must come forward and address the obvious threat to child safety and well-being that emanates from the use of these communications platforms."

“The internet is not the cause of these issues, but it is a catalyst for unacceptable and dangerous behaviour towards children and young people.

“Predatory behaviour by paedophiles and perverts is being buoyed by greater levels of online engagement among children and young people. Equally, there is a growing suite of evidence to suggest that social media is having a highly negative effect on the mental health and wellbeing of children.

“All of these companies derive massive revenues from children and their families in this country. The least they can do is come forward with real, implementable safety measures to protect our children,” concluded Mr Dooley.

Fianna Fail today also agreed today to establish a Special Working Group on Child Internet Safety.

Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte TD said the latest case serves as a wakeup call to the entire political and legal community of the dangers facing children every time they lift up a phone or tablet.

“There was complete unanimity at today’s Frontbench meeting with the view that this issue requires urgent and dedicated focus and that the Fianna Fáil party needs to use its mandate and influence in Dáil Éireann to drive forward change and increase the protections offered to our children.

“A Special Working Group on Child Internet Safety will now be established, with the task of bringing forward measures to implement the recommendations of the Government’s Advisory Group from 2014. We will also seek expert opinion on what additional measures can be taken to counter the threat that very clearly exists.

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