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03rd Jul 2020

The current rise in cyber-bullying proves we need CoCo’s Law now more than ever

Melissa Carton

As things stand, there is no law against cyber-bullying.

Over the last few weeks several Irish celebrities and influencers have spoken about abusive messages they have been receiving, some being particularly cruel and vicious.

One influencer and cancer survivor recently recounted received baby clothes in the mail and a followup message to mock the fact that her cancer treatment means she can no longer get pregnant.

This influx of harassment has brought to light again that there is still no protection for children or adults who are being abused online – which is why now, more than ever, we need CoCo’s Law.

Last year we spoke to mum Jackie Fox who tragically lost her daughter Nicole to suicide after years of online abuse.

It was during her daughter’s ordeal that Jackie found out that there are no laws or protection in place for those suffering online harassment. After losing her daughter, Jackie made it her mission to make cyber-bullying illegal.

“I had numerous meetings in the Dáil with various parties, protests, and a march through Dublin to highlight the importance of a badly needed law,” she says.

“I finally found Brendan Howlin who drafted up a law called the Harmful Harassment Communications Related Act, also known as CoCo’s law. This law is in the equality of justice committee at the moment which is stage 3.

“Because we didn’t have a government for the last few months and with everything that has happened with COVID-19, everything paused. But I’ve never stopped fighting to get it pushed through.”

There is currently over 32,000 signatures on a petition (which you can sign here) that Jackie hopes to present to Helen McEntee, the new Justice Minister, outside of Leinster House in the coming weeks.

Jackie says that since lockdown she has seen a significant rise in young people contacting her because they are receiving abusive messages.

“At the moment I’m heartbroken because I can’t even tell them that something can be done,” she says.

“All that I can tell them is that it’s coming soon, that CoCo’s Law is coming soon and it will protect them.”

If there is any silver lining to be had from the awful messages and online abuse that has been happening, it’s that now people are talking about it.

While once those being bullied suffered in silence, they are now speaking out and encouraging others to do the same.

“I’ve always had the press contact me to talk to me but now suddenly I have influencers and bloggers asking if they can talk about CoCo’s story,” says Jackie.

“I’d never seen CoCo’s Law mentioned really on Instagram or the newer social media sites, and now suddenly it’s being shared everywhere, but particularly by young people and teenagers.”

While Jackie feels that teenagers and children need more protection online, she fully intends for everyone, including adults, to be protected by the new law.

“This isn’t just for kids. Adults bully and get bullied too. The people who tormented my daughter were adults,” she says.

“This law is for everyone whether they are in school or in work. Anyone can become a victim to online abuse and everyone should be protected.”

You can find out more about CoCo’s Law here at the Let’s Bring in CoCo’s Law Facebook page.