Civility in the Digital Age Coming Soon to Ireland
IRISH POLITICIANS have vowed "to put manners on you" if you cross the line of online decorum. That's an underlying theme of the Irish government as it keeps the country in step towards austerity.
The Minister for Communications, Mr Pat Rabbitte, "plans to legislate for the regulation of social media in order to prevent the sending of 'menancing' messages via websites such as Facebook and Twitter. 
The Irish Minister for the Environment, Mr Phil Hogan, called menacing reporters "knackers" last week because they hounded him in Doha when the rest of the Irish government was on the airwaves announcing another round of cuts to social spending. The hounding Hogan received caused his press secretary to leave her job. 
So expectations are high that the Oireachtas Communications Committee this week will unveil its conclusions on the abuse of politicians in social media. Abuse contributed to the suicide of Shane McEntee, a junior minister, last December. "The Minister will be signaling his intention to broaden the scope pf the communications regulations to embrace all forms of electronic communications," said a spokesman for Rabbitte.
In Ireland, the Communications Regulations (Amendment) Act 2007, passed as the iPhone made its debut, made it an offence to "send by telephone any message that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing". It bans telephone messages including texts, which are sent "for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety." So far, even though someone may use a mobile Twitter client to stir up needless anxiety, because the behaviour uses a data plan and not SMS messaging, the potential anti-social behaviour does not fall under the scope of existing Irish law.
To fill that gap, expect Minister Rabbitte to have a plan that will certainly light up Twitter Machines in pockets across the Republic. I think The Plan should also offer a lexicon of nice and rude words because a term of endearment in Ireland might be a slanderous remark in Poland. And since it's Ireland's turn to host the European Presidency at the moment, the proposed change in legislation will certainly crest onto the pages of newspapers across the continent.
In the meantimes, I'm reading more about how to be civil online in Andrea Weckerle's book about haters, trolls, bullies and other jerks I've met on screen.
Andrea Weckerle -- Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies and Other Jerks
1. Sarah McInerney -- "Rabbitte vows to outlaw harrassment on websites" on the front page of the Sunday Times, March 3, 2013.
2. Irish Independent -- "Hogan's Press Officer Quits Job at Department", January 23, 2013.
Bernie Goldbach tries to teach civility in the social media module of the creative multimedia degree programme in the Limerick Institute of Technology but often the cut-and-thrust of Twitter gets in the way. To balance that combative air, we listen to the For Immediate Release podcast.