Catfishing 'needs to be a criminal offence'

Catfishing 'needs to be a criminal offence'

One Senator has said practices such as catfishing need to be a criminal offence, if social media companies want to keep their users.

Fianna Fáil’s Lisa Chambers was speaking after having her image used on a dating site in the UK.

She told The Pat Kenny Show the recourse for people is too limited.

“It was maybe five years ago, when my cousin in England contacted me to say that my picture was being used on a site and she sent me a screenshot.

“I wasn’t overly upset about it, I thought it was strange.

“She said she’d contact them to say ‘Stop doing it, that’s my cousin’ and I never heard anything more about it.”

‘Better protections for people’

Senator Chambers has said she wants to move with legislation on this.

“I think what we need to do is empower the Gardaí.

“First of all make it a criminal offence so that the Gardaí have the basis to go to social media companies or to dating apps and request that information without being blocked from getting it.

“As we all know dating apps, social media companies they will resist all efforts to release information unless they absolutely have to do so under the law”.

She believes such a change could be good for those companies.

“Many people are opting not to go on dating websites now because they don’t feel safe, or they don’t feel they can trust the information.

“So I think if these dating websites want to maintain their business model… they’re going to have to provide better protections for people”.

Senator Chambers said she wasn’t even sure what had happened in the case of her catfish, but that the practice is much more widespread now.

“Listening to the incredible story that I think a lot of people have listened to on The 2 Johnnies podcast… and then more recently with Ellen Coyne’s podcast ‘Cruel Intentions’.

“So you’re hearing two sides of the story: the victim, the person who has been catfished… and then also the person whose information and picture has been taken to be used.

“When you think of Aoibhín, who Ellen Coyne spoke to, she’s clearly very traumatised by what has happened to her, what is still happening to her.

“[She] has absolutely zero recourse through the law, and the Gardaí can’t help her because there simply isn’t any laws in place to make this a criminal offence”.

The Tinder dating app is seen on an iPhone. The Tinder dating app is seen on an iPhone. Picture by: Urbanmyth / Alamy Stock Photo

She said the law has to catch up with technology – and society.

“It is something that I think our laws need to catch up with, because we’re still really adapting to the online space.

“More and more people are now living online – in terms of dating for the first time online, they’re living their lives very publicly online.

“And there’s very few protections there to stop people taking your photos and your information and passing them off as their own”.

She added: “We’ve identified a gap… I’m a legislator, I believe other legislators will also see that there’s a need to bridge that gap.

“I don’t foresee any blockages, and I think that I will have support to bring this legislation through”.

Read More