Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland

02/09/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/09/2021 04:28

Minister McEntee marks Safer Internet Day by commencing Coco’s Law

Minister McEntee marks Safer Internet Day by commencing Coco's Law

  • Law creates two separate image-based criminal offences and broadens the scope of the existing offence of harassment
  • New 'Research Observatory on Cyberbullying' to be set up in memory of Nicole Fox (Coco) to establish a consistent monitoring framework on bullying
  • Minister launches #BeKindOnline Webinars to mark Safer Internet Day 2021

9 February 2021

Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, will mark Safer Internet Day today by commencing Coco's Law - the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act

Coco's Law creates two new offences which criminalise the non-consensual distribution of intimate images:

  • The first offence deals with the distribution or publication of intimate images without consent and with intent to cause harm. The penalties applicable can be an unlimited fine and/or 7 years imprisonment.
  • The second offence deals with the taking, distribution or publication of intimate images without consent even if there is no specific intent to cause harm. This offence will carry a maximum penalty of a €5,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment.

Minister McEntee said,

'Image based abuse is absolutely disgusting and can ruin lives. There can be no tolerance for online abuse. Coco's Law represents a big step forward in tackling harassment and harmful communications.

'I am honoured to pay tribute to the memory of Nicole Fox, and to the selfless efforts of her mother, Jackie, who has tirelessly campaigned to raise awareness about the harmful effects of online abuse and to make our laws stronger in this area.

'This legislation will not only provide an effective tool to bring to justice those who use technology to harm others, but it will also send a clear message that as a society the sharing, or threat to share, an intimate image of another person without their consent is not acceptable in any circumstance.'

Minister McEntee also announced that an agreement had been reached between the Department of Justice, the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at DCU and the Department of Education, to establish an 'Research Observatory on Cyberbullying' focused on providing up-to-date research, advice and resources related to cyberbullying, cyberhate, and online harassment, and the implementation of Coco's Law.

Funding for the Observatory will be provided by the Department of Justice in memory of Nicole. Separately,the popular Webwise 'Lockers' programme, an important Junior Cycle resource on the topic of non-consensual sharing of intimate images created by Webwise, is being updated to include information about Coco's Law.

Prof James O'Higgins Norman, Director of the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre at Dublin City University, said:

'There is no doubt about the educational and social benefits that adults and children can enjoy from being online. However, at the same time, our research shows that during the first lockdown in 2020, up to 28% of young people aged between 10-17 reported that they were the targets of cyberbullying and 50% of this age group said they witnessed cyberbullying.

'So there is clearly a need for us to understand this problem and in particular its impact on young people.'

Minister McEntee commenced Coco's Law as part of Ireland's #BeKindOnline campaign to mark Safer Internet Day. The Minster said,

'With a community-led approach, Safer Internet Day is an opportunity for everyone to come together and play their part in building a better and safer digital world. Although an annual celebration, Ireland strives to protect all of us online and make every day a Safer Internet Day.

'I am delighted to launch the Irish Safer Internet Centre #BeKindOnline campaign and Webinar Series, which will be held throughout the week to celebrate Safer Internet Day.'

Minister of State with responsibility for Law Reform, James Browne TD, said:

'I would like to thank Jackie Fox for sharing Nicole's story in a bid to make people understand the harm that online abuse can cause and today's signing of the commencement order for Coco's Law is a testament to the power of that story. While the introduction of strong and efficient laws to combat online abuse is crucial, it cannot be the only way to tackle the spread of harmful communications.'

Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, said:

'I welcome the commencement of Coco's Law, which is a hugely important step in keeping everyone, especially our young people, safe online. The Department of Education's webwise programme, www.webwise.ie, promotes the effective and safe use of the internet by young people through a sustained information and awareness strategy targeting school leaders, teachers, parents and young people themselves with consistent and relevant messages.'

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, said,

'Coco's Law will strengthen our criminal justice response to image based abuse, harassment and certain harmful communications.

'I would also emphasise my commitment and the commitment of this Government to the enactment of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. This law will create a new regulator, an Online Safety Commissioner as part of a wider Media Commission, with powers of oversight over the systems that online platforms, including social media services, use to deliver and moderate user-generated content. The goal of the Online Safety Commissioner will be to minimise the availability of certain defined categories of harmful online content by ensuring that the systems used by online platforms meet the standards set out in Online Safety Codes.

The #BeKindOnline webinars will take place on 9, 10 and 11 February and will also be available on the Department of Justice's social media pages. These webinars are aimed at parents of teenagers, parents of younger children, teachers, educators, school leaders and education stakeholders. The theme of the webinars is empowering healthy online behaviour in children and young people.

ENDS…/

Notes for Editors

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is an annual initiative which takes place in February to promote safe and responsible use of the Internet and digital technologies, especially amongst children and young people. Safer Internet Day is organised by the joint Insafe-INHOPE network with the support of the European Commission and funding provided under the Connecting Europe Facility Programme.

This year marks the 18th edition of Safer Internet Day.

#BeKindOnline Webinar Series

As part of Safer Internet Day, the Irish Safer Internet Centre is hosting a series of webinars to help keep people safe online.

These #BeKindOnline webinars will take place on 9, 10 and 11 February and will also be available on the Department of Justice's social media pages. These webinars are aimed at parents of teenagers, parents of younger children, teachers, educators, school leaders and education stakeholders. The theme of the webinars is empowering healthy online behaviour in children and young people.

Further information available here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Safer_Internet_Day_2021

About Webwise 'Lockers'

The Webwise 'Lockers' programme comprises 6 lessons that support the exploration of crucial issues arising around the topic of sexting including; consent, victim blaming, media influence and gender stereotyping. The Programme also includes information for school leaders on the legal framework, implications for school policy and considerations for dealing with incidents.

That programme is being updated to reflect Coco's Law. Webwise will also be working to update their 'Be in Ctrl' and 'Connected' programmes to ensure they reflect the new legislative landscape.

About the Irish Safer Internet Centre

Irish Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of four leading organisation with a mission to make the Internet a better place for children and young people, under the co-ordination of the Department of Justice. The consortium has been appointed over a decade ago by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre in Ireland, and is one of 31 Safer Internet Centres across EU Member States, the UK, Iceland and Norway, co-financed by the European Union and integral part of the INSAFE-INHOPE network.

The Irish Safer Internet Centre partners are:

· ISPCC Childline: www.ispcc.ie/childline

· National Parents Council Primary: www.npc.ie/primary

· Webwise (PDST Technology in Education): www.webwise.ie

· Hotline.ie: www.hotline.ie