The politics of tackling online abuse

Politicians need a good sense of perspective in their efforts to tackle the online abuse directed towards them from forums, blogs and other social media outlets.

Politicians need a good sense of perspective in their efforts to tackle the online abuse directed towards them from forums, blogs and other social media outlets.

An Oireachtas committee has been tasked to investigate political trolling and bullying on new media.

The ultimate goal of this investigation may be the introduction of legislation and regulation in order to curb this phenomenon.

What form this regulation might take, no one could possibly guess.

In the wake of the tragic death of Junior Minister, Shane McEntee, to which online abuse has been attributed as a cause, such a reaction is understandable.

However, to believe that they can regulate and legislate on social media may be naive in the extreme.

Abuse of any kind is, or course, abhorrent. The world is full of ‘keyboard warriors’ who, in a technologial sense, fulfill the old maxim that ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ They operate securely behind the veil of anonymity that social media affords.

They are the cyber equivalent to the anonymous abusive letter, the letter that should be thrown immediately in the bin because of the paucity of a signature.

The anonymous letter syndrome is as old as the hills and will always be there. That’s a fact of life.

Politicians are hardly immune, or strangers, to abuse.

By its very nature, politics can be an inherently dirty game.

Yet to judge from this latest attempt to insulate themselves from the worst excesses of social media, one would think they never had a critical comment directed at them.

Also, it must be remembered that they have not helped their own cause in any great way.

People are angry at what has happened in the country.

This anger is complemented by a frustration with the way the political class has conducted and is conducting itself.

The popular perception remains, rightly or wrongly, that they are only in it for themselves.

There is very real anger out there, and remember that this anger has not even manifested itself on the streets, unlike what has taken place in other European capitals.

Traditional and new media is only reflecting, a fact that Communications Minister, Pat Rabbitte should keep to the forefront of his mind in any future musings he may have about negativity towards government.

Is it such a strange phenonmenon, afterall , that people are dissatisified or angry with the Government or politicians in generaly.

Hardly.

Public life is a challenging arena at the best of times.

Regulating any kind of media won’t change this.

Cyber bullying is a very real issue, and its tragic effect on people, particularly younger people, has been all to apparent in recent months.

It is very complex, and involves initiatives across a number of fronts to curb its worst excesses.

It will be interesting to see the recommendations of the Oireachtas committee.

They might, however, spare us the indignation of politicians on the issue.