“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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  • Sp12

    “For which, I think, we should be very grateful indeed.”

    No point in debating the possibility of regulation when considering the issue of death threats on social networks when we can just go straight to the police and PPS.
    After Gregory’s landmark case, and considering the tidal wave of death threats from North Antrim marchers to those with a bee in their cap about SPL managers, that has recently hit the high water mark with the recent ‘Loyalist’s against this that and the other’ perhaps you could expand the OP with details on how the existing system is working out?

  • keano10

    A more pertinent question might be to enquire what is happening in relation to the many complaints which have already been made to the PSNI regarding death threats issued online by Loyalist Flag Protest Websites.

    Five weeks ago, Matt Baggott informed us that he had seven specialist officers working on this and that progress was being made. We were subsequently informed that “hundreds” might expect to face charges in relation to general law breaking in connection with the protest.

    We have now reached mid-February and absolutely nothing has happened. The occasional sporadic arrest, but nothing whatsoever to address the huge amount of intimidation and threat of violence which has been perpetrated by many individuals online.

    By the way Pete if you are recognising Newton’s authority on such matters, you perhaps should also have quoted from his column in last week’s Irish News where he bitterly criticised Matt Baggott and the PSNI for their softly-softly attitude to Loyalist violence. Newton said that their handling of this may now lead to the most violent marching season that we have seen for years.

  • I’ve just meandered over from the discussion on the Slugger website dropout, where I left this comment;

    “Well, I’m glad that the permanent axe job I had envisaged engineered by the bankers and their allies in the Stormont in the wake of those threads on the Anglo Irish Bank fiasco were just in my imagination…….”.

    And now to my horror…….

    So, regarding political control of the “free” expression of opinion, well, it’s just a matter of time, I expect, in a province where the Runkerry Golf bonanza playpen with added luxury slums featuring acre-sized kitchens can be given a ministerial go-ahead.

    Our masters up there “On the Hill” have never been very good at the servant of the people part of the job description, with, I must admit, a few honourable exceptions.

  • Sp12[2.10 a.m.]Talking of Gregory’s landmark case, I read in Sunday Times atticus column today that GC has apparently been emboldened by that case to write to Facebook to tell them they should instruct members to re edit their user profiles to always use the official name of the maiden city,[nationalist FB users included] I think the word fascism is not out of place in describing this suggestion. In the same paper a stanDUP comedian has suggested we take a cue from the French to deal with this and , for practical purposes, admit the real name is Londonderry but leave the first six letters silent in daily usage.