A Private Members Bill – the Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Bill 2015

The law has consistently prohibited the improper use of the postal and telephone systems, however a legal loophole exists in respect of electronic communications or social media. The new legislation proposes amending section 13 of the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951, as substituted by section 4 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Communications regulation (Amendment) Act 2007.

If passed, the legislation will make it an offence for a person to send, or cause to be sent, by means of public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing. It also targets false messages sent for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another or persistent misuse of a public electronic communications network. It would permit Judges to impose fines of up to €75,000 and/or jail terms of up to five years on anyone convicted of trolling, bullying or abusing others online.

Last year, the Law Reform Commission, in its paper on ‘Cyber-crime affecting personal safety, privacy and reputation including cyber-bullying’ agreed that the 2007 Act should be amended to include electronic communications within its ambit.

The UK has recently amended similar legislation (section 127 of the Communications Act 2003) to cover the sending of improper messages by means of a public electronics communications network.

We will update you on any further progress with this Bill.