Catfishing would be banned in Ireland by new legislation being introduced by Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers, who had her own pictures stolen online.
Enator Chambers said she believes Irish law needs to keep up with the internet and put pressure on dating apps to help victims.
Catfishing refers to the phenomenon of a person stealing another person’s pictures or identity, usually to impersonate them on dating apps and form deceptive relationships with unsuspecting targets.
Ms Chambers said she is working on a bill that would ban such online dating scams after a Irish Independent Podcast revealed there is no legal protection for victims.
Cruel Intentions – Catching the Catfish, a two-part special on the Indo Daily podcast, details how an Irish woman had her identity stolen and was used to set up multiple dating profiles for at least a year.
The online space allows people to do this because they can easily remove your photos from your profile and do whatever they want
Aoibhín, 29, who lives in Dublin, learned that the person impersonating her appeared to have access to her address and a significant amount of personal information.
When Aoibhín tried to go to the gardaí, she learned that catfishing is not a crime in Ireland – neither for people who have had their identities stolen, nor for those who have been tricked into forming relationships with fake profiles.
A few years ago, Ms Chambers herself learned by accident that her own pictures had been stolen and used in a catfishing maneuver on a UK dating site.
“About four or five years ago my cousin in England contacted me to say that she had seen my profile picture being used on a dating site there.
“I never thought about it because it never affected me in any way because it was somewhere in London. A lot of strange things happen in politics all the time. It was nothing like what happened with Aoibhín,” Ms Chambers said.
“The online space allows people to do that because they can just remove your photos from your profile and do whatever they want.”
They can absolutely devastate someone emotionally, psychologically and financially. They can really, really harm a person, even if it’s not in a physical way
But Ms Chambers told that Irish Independent The effects of catfish fishing can be devastating. “I think there’s a lack of understanding of the kind of damage that things like this can do.
“I think with catfishing people might think it’s just harmless ‘mess’ on the internet. But you can absolutely destroy someone emotionally, psychologically and financially. They can really, really harm a person, even if it’s not in a physical way. There is a clear gap in our legislation because we are still catching up online.”
It is in the early stages of considering a bill that would protect victims of catfishing.
The senator said she believes catfishing could be outlawed by amending the existing non-fatal crimes statute against the Persons Act. She has worked with the Oireachtas Parliamentary Counsels Office to try to define what catfishing is and ensure that any new legislation would deal with catfishing from “both angles”.
“As in, the person who was harmed because he was fished. And then the person whose identity was stolen,” Ms Chambers said.
The senator said she hopes a change in the law would help people whose identities have been stolen in Catfish operations find out what dating app activity was conducted under their photo, name or other information.
In the case of Aoibhín, a request to Tinder to access information about the activities of the person impersonating her was denied.
Ms Chambers said there was a court action people could take to try and get information from dating apps, but it was “extremely costly and not really accessible to the average person”. She said social media companies “will resist requests all the time.”
“If gardaí had the authority to actually investigate, they could make a request to the social media company and actually get access to the data themselves,” Ms Chambers said.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/my-image-was-used-on-a-dating-site-so-i-know-first-hand-the-dangers-of-catfishing-senator-lisa-chambers-plans-new-law-41993220.html “My picture was used on a dating site so I know firsthand the dangers of catfishing” – Senator Lisa Chambers plans new law