Journalism academic’s policy proposals adopted by Oireachtas Task Force

Friday, 17 May 2024

University of Galway
Associate Professor of Journalism Tom Felle.

Key policy proposals presented by a University of Galway journalism academic to the Oireachtas Taskforce on Safe Participation in Political Life have been adopted in the final report.

The Oireachtas Task Force report on Safe Participation in Political Life was published this week by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl T.D. and Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann, Senator Jerry Buttimer.

The report outlines comprehensive recommendations to address the pervasive issue of abuse and harassment faced by politicians, with a particular focus on protecting women and minority groups, enhancing security measures and holding social media platforms accountable for online abuse.

Associate Professor of Journalism Tom Felle presented research findings about digital harassment and cyber abuse of female politicians to the expert group in September 2023.

He emphasised the urgent need for robust measures to combat cyber violence against female politicians. His presentation highlighted critical research findings from University of Galway, demonstrating the pervasive nature of online abuse and its severe impact on women in politics.

 Key Findings from the University of Galway’s research included:

  • Approximately 96% of female politicians reported receiving abusive social media or electronic messages containing hate speech, foul language, and inappropriate comments
  • 73% faced threats of physical violence, with 38% subjected to threats of rape or sexual violence
  • 28% reported being verbally abused in public, including disturbing incidents such as faeces being thrown and threats of acid attacks
  • One in five considered quitting politics due to online harassment, underscoring the chilling effect of cyber violence.

Associate Professor Tom Felle’s key policy proposals are reflected in the Task Force’s recommendations, including:

  1. Security and Support: Improve cooperation with An Garda Síochána in the reporting and investigation of digital threats; and providing psychological support services to local representatives.
  2. Political Parties and Conduct: Equip election candidates with training to protect against abuse.
  3. Social Media Regulation: Coimisiún na Meán should fully utilise its powers to regulate social media platforms and address online abuse.

Associate Professor Tom Felle said: "Adopting these critical measures is a significant step towards creating a safer and more inclusive political environment. By enforcing stringent regulations on social media platforms, enhancing security for politicians, and promoting respectful discourse within political parties, we can combat the pervasive issue of cyber violence against women. These changes will not only protect current politicians but also encourage more women to participate in political life, ensuring that our democratic institutions are truly representative of our diverse society.”

The University of Galway and Associate Professor Felle remain committed to supporting efforts that promote a safe and inclusive political landscape for all.

Ends

Keywords: Press.

Author: Marketing & Communications Office , NUI Galway
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