Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Irish president Mary McAleese seeks tougher approach to social media giants

She spoke at an equality and diversity event at Queen’s University in Belfast.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese has raised concerns about social media (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Former Irish president Mary McAleese has raised concerns about social media (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Former Irish president Mary McAleese has called for a tougher approach to social media giants after photographs of two teenagers convicted of murder were published online.

Mrs McAleese, who is a professor of children, law and religion at the University of Glasgow, said that more accountability and intelligence is needed to clamp down on the dangers posed by the internet.

Earlier this week, Twitter and Facebook appeared in a court in Dublin to answer contempt of court proceedings after photographs and the names of the two convicted juvenile killers were posted on their platforms.

Mrs McAleese also referred to another child who was wrongly identified as one of the killers on social media.

Speaking at an equality and diversity event at Queen’s University in Belfast, the former Irish president said that while she recognises the good in the internet, the public also pays a price for social media.

“Anarchy prevails on it,” she said.

“You cannot sue Google or Facebook for hate crime, for incitement or for defamation.

“As much as I think there is a huge body of good, there is also evil in that connectivity to people and that’s where we really have to get tough.

“The great phenomenon of the internet and social platforms has run so far ahead of what we are capable of reining in and reining in is now where we have to go to protect children.

“It’s one thing to be bullied in school, but bullying has this capacity for an absolutely almost gargantuan toxicity through the internet.

“We need a lot more intelligence and also legal constriction and accountability than we are currently doing.”

Mrs McAleese attended the Queen’s event to launch the diversity lecture with compere and BBC broadcaster Wendy Austin.

A barrister by profession, Mrs McAleese graduated from the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast in 1973.

The new lecture series is part of Queen’s Management School’s mission to promote greater equality and diversity in the workplace.

Mrs McAleese also told the audience that she spoke at a conference in Rome last year to call out a culture of “corruption and hypocrisy” in the Catholic Church.

She described how she used the opportunity to speak at a Voices Of Faith conference to address misogyny and homophobia.

Her comments attracted criticism from religious and public figures, including Irish politicians, after she spoke out against the Catholic Church.

“Misogyny and homophobia are two utterly toxic and humanly damaging phenomenon that to be associated with a so-called God of love has always struck me as peculiar and hypocritical,” she said on Friday.

“I used that opportunity to be as strong as I possibly could knowing there was a lot of people watching that speech to see what I had to say.

“I wasn’t going to go in there and be Mrs nice and quiet and lovely and looking for all the nice things to say.

“It was a good way to tell it like I saw it.

“I was going to use the opportunity to call out a culture of both corruption and hypocrisy.”

In a wide-ranging talk, Mrs McAleese also said that firms and employees need to make changes to encourage women into the workplace.

She added: “The workforce is changing, therefore the shape of the work and the system of work needs to change to adapt to accommodate women and accommodate family life.

“In encouraging women we have to be prepared to change things. You might have to be prepared to put a creche in the workplace for example or introduce flexi-time.”

PA

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