Coco’s law – and another cyberbullying death

Nicole Fox Fenlon from Dublin died by suicide in January after years of cyberbullying.  And of course being female, the harassment was sexualized with fake photos. Afraid of retaliation, she refused to report it.

There is evidence on Nicole’s phone, but the police will do nothing.  When her mother went to the police, she was told it was perfectly legal. Ireland’s laws had never been updated for the computer age.

According to Nicole’s mother, Jackie Fox:

“She was told ‘to go die, we’re going to put you on life support machines, we’re going to kill you, we’re going to beat you up’…It’s not an offence in Ireland. It is in loads of other countries but it’s not an offence in Ireland to threaten someone’s life on social media.”

Nicoles’ mother has started lobbying for legislation against online harassment. She calls it “Coco’s law”, after the family nickname for Nicole.

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4 thoughts on “Coco’s law – and another cyberbullying death

  1. This seems odd. The making of threats to kill is an offence under section 5 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997, http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/1997/act/26/enacted/en/html which provides “A person who, without lawful excuse, makes to another a threat, by any means intending the other to believe it will be carried out, to kill or cause serious harm to that other or a third person shall be guilty of an offence …” It may well be that the Gardaí did not know how to use social media evidentially, or that they simply did not care enough, but the suggestion that threats to kill via social media are not a crime in Ireland is wrong on the face of it.

  2. That’s the law they want to update:
    http://www.europe.easybranches.com/ireland/-I-go-to-bed-early-just-to-get-rid-of-the-day—-Heartbroken-mum-loses-hope-of-bringing-daughter-s-bullies-to-justice-337244

    Here’s a better description of the bill and a link to the bill itself–in PDF form. What no cuneiform tablets?
    https://www.labour.ie/news/2018/01/31/labour-bill-to-tackle-online-harassment/

    In the U.S. a conversation with police goes something like “Someone harassed me on Facebook” “What is Facebook?” plus the kids are constantly getting new and unheard-of apps so they don’t have to be on the same social media as their parents.

    They should probably train the police, but that would probably add a budget item to the bill.

  3. It is probably correct that posting fake porno of someone on social media is not covered by the current law. But threats to kill are. Sad to hear that going to the Gardaí with “Someone has threatened to kill my daughter” should not meet their threshold for action.

  4. If I remember the law correctly it has language about threatening “by any means including by telephone” and the remedies include that the perpetrator not come within 1000 feet (or whatever the distance) from the target’s house. That might have been ok in the days of landlines but it’s not going to work with social media and the British-Irish clubbing scene. IIRC these were by Snapchat. So how to collect that evidence? Doesn’t snapchat disappear as soon as you view it? I honestly don’t know, but some police departments are getting a computer type person on their staff to answer these questions. It’s also a specialized area of law, this is the only one I know of:
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/12/05/the-attorney-fighting-revenge-porn
    …she will tell her clients how to simultaneously get the material taken off line quickly while preserving the evidence that it was posted in order to be able to press charges.

    Clearly the law needs an update, but we don’t have a statement from the police, probably the truth is because they are understaffed, undertrained, or perhaps even under pressure from hidden and influential predators, and cannot initiate something like this themselves without seeming to criticize the politicians they have to answer to in the pecking order. I cannot imagine any police department in the world that is not highly politicized. The pressure has to come from outside and they probably know it only too well.

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