One of the world’s foremost cybercrime experts, Professor Mary Aiken, compared the damage done by social media giants to Big Tobacco, whose interests were directly opposed to the well-being of people.
Talk to Independent from Sunday, she said: “We have been here before with the tobacco and asbestos industry and I think the Irish Sthe state failed in its duty of care to protect children and youth from online harm.
She said she had become “so disillusioned” by Ireland’s political inactivity regarding the online damage problem that she decided to refocus her efforts abroad.
Teacher Aiken is a globally recognized expert in forensic cyberpsychology who works with Interpol, Europol European Cybercrime Center and with the UK government, EU and US agencies.
“I have become so disappointed with the way Irish children are left unprotected and the apathy and lack of regulation around social media and social technology, that to make changes in Ireland I decided to refocus my efforts elsewhere, in the hope that Ireland can finally follow international best practices, ”she said.
On the paths people are put in danger, she cited exposure to hate speech, cyberbullying, harassment, fake news, self-harm content, child sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as increasing levels of abuse. anxiety and depression.
She was speaking as the government prepares to pass its online security and media regulation bill. The bill will establish a Media Commission which will regulate social media companies for the first time in Ireland. The Oireachtas media committee also called for an online security commissioner who would focus on tackling online damage.
But citing what she called “a lack of in-depth understanding of the problems” Professor Aiken said it is crucial that online damage is addressed on the basis of a scientific understanding of the problems and automated solutions.
“Online nuisances have the same characteristics as big data: volume, speed and variety, in other words, there are a lot of them. We can’t rely on human solutions alone – we need automated solutions and we need to empower social technology companies. ”
She said Ireland’s impending online safety and media regulation bill “will fail dramatically” unless policymakers recognizee “the magnitude and complexity of the problems they are trying to solve”.
“Apparently an Irish Electronic Security Commissioner will be appointed, but given the number of social tech companies headquartered in Ireland, we may be tasked with monitoring harmful content across Europe. This will not be possible with a workforce of 20 people, not possible with a workforce of 2,000 or even 20,000 people. We need automated solutions.
In response to Professor Aiken’s comments, Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne said: “I agree with Mary Aiken that, so far, we have not taken the issue of online damage control seriously enough. However, in December we enacted the Coco Law and next year we will enact the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. This will see the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner and the focus will be on child safety online.
He said the “scale” of the technological revolution is “underestimated” by the Ggovernment and there is a need for discussions around ethics in artificial intelligence and machine learning. He added that we are only ‘scratching the surface’ and need effective legislation to combat online damage.