Joint Committee on Transport and Communications

20th March 2013

Digital Rights Ireland

 Digital Rights Ireland  Founded 2005  Aims to protect traditional rights online as well as offline  TJ McIntyre  Chairman, Digital Rights Ireland  Associate Dean, UCD School of Law  Practising solicitor specialising in IT law  Fergal Crehan  Practising barrister with special expertise in data protection, online defamation and social media

Far from being a new phenomenon

Wide range of existing laws
 Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951  S.13: Offensive, etc. telephone messages  Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003  S.2: Fair obtaining/processing of data  S.6A: Right to object to processing likely to cause distress  S.8: Permits disclosure for investigation of crime  Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989  Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997  S.5: Threats to kill or cause serious harm  S.9: Coercion  S.10: Harassment  Norwich Pharmacal orders  Used since 2005 to identify internet users  Defamation Act 2009  S.36: Blasphemy

Who needs to protect their identities online?


Victims of domestic abuse

Employees and union members

Ryanair v. Johnston
 “The [application] it appears to me forms part of a

war of attrition that the captains are to be dissuaded by legal battle.... I do not accept [the] evidence that the investigation intended was bona fide. It is a feigned exercise and designed to divide those in IALPA from loyalty towards each other.”

Unreported, High Court, Smyth J., 12 July 2006


Risks in applying an “offensive messages” law online?

 S.13 Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951  Deals with particularly invasive messages – phone call, voicemail, text  These are messages “TO” an individual not “ABOUT” an individual  Expansion would
Criminalise every web page, online newspaper story, etc. which was intended to cause “annoyance”  Create a remarkably subjective crime  Break the principle of parity between online/offline speech  Add to huge workload of Garda Computer Crime Unit

Comparable English law (s.127 Communications Act 2003) has been extensively misused

 In any case, expanding s.13 would likely be in breach

of Art.10 ECHR:

“Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society…it is applicable not only to “information” or “ideas” that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also as to those that offend, shock or disturb …”
 Sunday

Times v UK (No2) [1992] 14 EHRR 123


Provide adequate funding for DPC

Provide adequate funding for DPC

Resource the Computer Crime Investigation Unit

Thank you

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