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So Nessa Childers doesn’t like Facebook. She’s mad as hell and she want’s someone to do something about it.

Let’s say we make a small change to what she said. Let’s get rid of the words “social networks” or “Facebook” and make some small alterations instead.

Labour MEP Nessa Childers has said the EU can and should bring in new laws to protect people from the dangers of addiction to popular social networking activities such as reading, emailing, club membership and talking.

Ms. Childers, who is a psychotherapist by profession said, “There has been an explosion in recent years in the use of social networking, in particular talking, a facility I frequently use to keep in touch with constituents. I believe the disturbing levels of addiction to talking, which has over 400,000 users in Ireland is sufficiently high as to warrant intervention and regulation by the EU.

“With the passing into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the EU now has increased powers to legislate when there is a threat to public health in Europe. I am today calling on the European Commission to submit proposals to the European Parliament to tackle this clear and present threat to the mental health of millions of European citizens.

“Using telephones from time to time in order to interact with friends and family is all very well. However no guidelines or codes of conduct have been produced by the telephone company to help prevent users becoming addicted. This is where transnational institutions must step in and subject such sites to the scrutiny of EU public health law.

“Using email frequently causes what psychologists refer to as ‘intermittent reinforcement’. Notifications, messages and invites reward you with an unpredictable high, much like gambling. That anticipation can get dangerously addictive.

“Joining a bridge club rewards you with virtual connections and friends. These connections then expand to fill an increasingly empty internal world creating a vicious circle.

“We can read novels that present an unreal and flawless version of ourselves. Many people read books once or twice a week however for others it has turned into a compulsion – and it is a compulsion to dissociate oneself from the real world in exchange for the apparently non-threatening parallel world of the romantic novel.

“Reading is especially seductive when real life isn’t going so well. In real life, people have bad breath and smelly feet and we argue about who’s going to change the baby’s nappy. But no such banalities exist in literature. Working as a professional psychotherapist, I saw an exponential increase in addiction to pornography, a disturbing phenomenon which has wrecked relationships and lives. Action is needed at international level from the EU to properly take on the disturbing trend of addiction to libraries and bookshops which are responsible for all sorts of problematic behaviour”, she concluded.

Eircom today announced that they would start monitoring their customers’ internet traffic in order to detect and report illegal file sharing activity. Repeated accusations of file sharing will see the offending accounts being cancelled. There are benefits and disadvantages to Eircom.

The benefits are that this action will bring illegal filesharing to an end. The people using illegal filesharing software will see the error of their ways and everyone will henceforth pay the going price for downloading music.

Oh, wait. NO THEY WON’T.

The downloaders will simply go somewhere else, using more secure software, less easily detected by the IRMA snoops.

The disadvantages are that Eircom will lose customers. Lots and lots of customers. Filesharers will surely go. One might be tempted to say good riddance, except for the fact that they are all paying monthly subscriptions that pay the wages of Eircom employees. Not only that, but innocent customers will also leave, when they start getting nastygrams from Eircom accusing them of something they didn’t do. Paying customers will feel the brunt of their children’s misbehaviour, hacker attacks where their modems are not adequately secured and false-positives from the IRMA sniffing software itself. Oh boy. Talk radio is going to have a field day. The bad press will therefore lead to even more customers refusing to renew their subscriptions.

This is a bad call by Eircom, and I’m surprised they haven’t gone all the way to the European Court with this. They have a legitimate safe-harbour defense (should motorway owners be responsible for the actions of motorists on their roads?), and yet they caved in to a special interest at the first hurdle.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present you Eircom: the great corporate suicide story of the decade.

Update: Dick Doyle from IRMA has said that they could potentially provide Eircom with “thousands of IP addresses”. Let’s substitute the words “IP addresses” with “permanently lost customers“. Eircom must be ecstatic about that wonderful prognosis.

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