“Regulation of the internet is not an issue that falls within my responsibility or, indeed, that of any part of our devolved Executive.”

For which, I think, we should be very grateful indeed.  Not that such constitutional technicalities prevented MLAs, of all parties, from enthusiastically debating a Sinn Féin motion last week calling for the Northern Ireland Justice Minister “to explore the introduction of better regulation of [social networking websites]”.  Here’s Newton Emerson’s response in Saturday’s Irish News

Worse was to come when Stormont debated social-networking sites, in a session that might as well have been entitled “we support free speech, but”.  One MLA after another stood up to reveal how wounded they had been by online criticism, before demanding draconian regulation and even arrests.

This was all seamlessly interspersed with references to “sexual predators”, as if calling your MLA a clampet on the internet makes you no better than a paedophile.  Finally, justice minister David Ford reminded members that telecommunications is one of the few policy areas not devolved to Stormont, so the whole 90-minute debate had been pointless.  Clampets.

Indeed.  The motion, with a slight SDLP amendment to add a further call for “additional policing resources”, was agreed without a vote.

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