Dublin, 8 October 2019
In a submission to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice and Equality the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has called for the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act to be amended to outlaw the creation and/or sharing of private sexual images without consent. ICCL also called for legal aid to assist victims to take cases when their rights have been violated.
A Gendered Problem
ICCL carried out independent qualitative research into online harassment in Ireland and found that most victims of online harassment are women. The perpetrators were most commonly found to be partners, prospective partners or ex-partners attempting to exert control. Examples of harassment included the use of spyware – intended for parents who monitor their childrens’ activities – being used to spy on women.
In our submission, we refer to the tragic case of Dara Quigley who took her own life after CCTV footage of her without clothing was shared and viewed approximately 125,000 times. The footage had been held by An Garda Síochána.
ICCL’s information and privacy rights programme manager Elizabeth Farries, said
Nobody has ever been held accountable for this appalling violation of Dara’s privacy. This sends a very clear message to perpetrators of image-based sexual abuse, who are mainly men, that they can get away with it. That has serious ramifications for our society – our gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ethnicity, mental health, and ability can present as risk factors for online harassment and abuse. This prevents us from availing of online or offline spaces with the same freedom as men.
ICCL also highlights a number of other problems with CCTV, including that it doesn’t effectively deter crime, that crime levels in Ireland are not sufficiently high to merit blanket surveillance of a population and that CCTV impacts more on certain populations than on others.
Recommendations for Reform
In our submission we make a number of recommendations for reforms to deal with this problem, including reforming legal aid to allow victims to take cases when their rights have been violated. We further recommend that tech companies engage with human rights reporting standards when moderating harmful online content. Lastly, we recommend that An Garda Síochána should take a number of steps to ensure that what happened to Dara Quigley can never happen again.
On 9 October, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice and Equality will hear from the tech giants regarding their policies on online content moderation. On 23 October ICCL will appear before the Joint Committee on Communications on the issue of online harassment.
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is Ireland’s leading independent human rights campaigning organisation. We monitor, educate and campaign to secure human rights for everyone in Ireland.
Notes for editors:
Image-based sexual abuse is the non-consensual creation and/or distribution of private sexual images. It is commonly known as “revenge porn”. ICCL takes issue with the latter term, because it is not pornography, it is abuse. It suggests the motivation is revenge, which not only suggests the victim did something to deserve it but also glosses over other motivations, including the desire to violate the victim’s autonomy, dignity and privacy in a sexualised way.
Find the full submission here: https://www.iccl.ie/iccl-online-harassment-submission/
Find a briefing for policy-makers here: https://www.iccl.ie/briefing-iccl-online-harassment-submission/
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