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Online harassment, including revenge porn, is to be made illegal after Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, received approval for the drafting for the Non-Fatal Offences (Amendment) Bill a few weeks ago.

Minister Fitzgerald received approval from the Cabinet before Christmas for the legislation which will address loopholes in present law which exists with regards to issues such as revenge porn and other forms of online harassment, including stalking.
The news came as a result of the Law Reform Commission publishing a report last September which recommended the enactment of brand new harassment offences in order to keep up with the constantly evolving nature of technology.
The new legislation will criminalise revenge porn, which refers to the sharing of intimate videos and photos of an individual without that person’s consent, as well as other forms of online harassment, including stalking.
It will also extend the offence of sending messages containing threatening material to every form of online communications.
Minister Fitzgerald has said in the past that “The speed and scale of modern online communications can magnify the damage done by harmful communications”.
“Phenomena such as so-called revenge pornography and the publication of voyeuristic material can do serious and lasting harm at the touch of a button, and it is important that we act now to ensure our laws can deal effectively with these challenges”, the Minister said.
The Non-Fatal Offences (Amendment) Bill will be the first piece of legislation relating to revenge porn, as the offence had never been legislated for in Ireland.
Up until this year, revenge porn was never officially recognised as a crime, and was merely alluded to in other legislation regarding online harassment. In the Non-Fatal Offences Against The Person Act of 1997, harassment is defined as when a person “seriously interferes with the other person’s peace and privacy or causes, alarm, distress or harm to the other”.
In fact, the only EU country which has legislation referring to revenge porn is the United Kingdom, who brought it into law in mid-April of 2015. The act of revenge porn is also illegal in the United States.
Among the potential consequences which perpetrators of harassment, such as revenge porn, may face is jail time of up to 7 years, and an unlimited fine. However, the Law Reform Commission recommended that the prosecution of minors for such offences should only be done as a last resort.
The Law Reform Commission also recommended the appointment of an official authority which would have the power to take social media platforms and other websites to court if they fail to remove harmful content from their sites.
Following Cabinet approval, the Non-Fatal Offences (Amendment) Bill is expected to be enacted into law later this year.
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