Ireland's Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. has published the general scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, to protect children online. Bruton said:
new law is the start of a new era of accountability. It sets out a clear expectation for online services. They will have to comply with binding online safety codes made by an Online Safety Commissioner, who will have significant powers to sanction
companies for non-compliance.
There are already significant regulatory and legal frameworks in place in relation to many online issues, including data protection and criminal justice responses to criminal activities
online. However, there is a serious gap both internationally and in Ireland when it comes to addressing harmful online content. This new law will close this legal gap and establish a robust regulatory framework to deal with the spread of harmful online
The Online Safety Commissioner will be part of a new Media Commission which will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and will also take on the role of regulating the audiovisual sector.
The new Online Safety Commissioner will be responsible for designating which online services should be covered under the new law. These designated services will then be required to comply with binding online safety codes made by the Commissioner.
Each Online Safety Code will set out the steps the designated service provide must take to keep their users safe online and will depend on the type of service that is being offered. Codes will address a wide range of matters,
Combating cyber bullying material and material promoting eating disorders, self-harm and suicide
Ensuring that services operate effective complaints procedures where people can request material is
Ensuring advertising, sponsorship and product placement are not harmful and uphold minimum standards
How companies are mitigating against risks to the prevalence of harmful content on
It is a matter for the Commissioner to design the relevant codes and decide which codes apply to each designated service. Online services will be legally obliged to abide by the codes that apply to them.
Online Safety Commissioner can:
Decide the appropriate reporting requirements of compliance with online safety codes by online services
Request information from online services about their compliance with the online safety codes that
apply to them
Audit the complaints and/or issues handling mechanisms operated by online services
Appoint authorised officers to assess compliance and carry out audits
The Online Safety Commissioner will establish a scheme to receive "super complaints" about systemic issues with online services from nominated bodies, including expert NGOs, and may request information, investigate or audit an online service on the basis of information received through this scheme.
If an online service is not complying with their safety code, the Online Safety Commissioner will, in the first instance, issue a compliance notice setting out what they must do to bring themselves into compliance- including the
removal or restoration of content.
If the Online Safety Commissioner is not satisfied with the response and action taken by the online service, the Online Safety Commissioner can issue a warning notice. Warning notices will set
out what the online service must do to bring itself into compliance and what steps the Online Safety Commissioner will take if it fails to do so.
If the Online Safety Commissioner is not satisfied with the response and action
taken by the online service on foot of a warning notice then the Online Safety Commissioner can seek to impose a sanction on that service.
The Online Safety Commissioner can publish compliance and warning notices.
The Media Commission can only seek to impose a sanction on an online service if the service has failed to comply with a warning notice. The sanctions that the Media Commission can impose include:
Compelling the online service to take certain actions, and,
Blocking an offending online service.
The application of each of these sanctions requires court approval.
The Irish Communications Minister Richard Bruton has scrapped plans to introduce restrictions on access to porn in a new online safety bill, saying they are not a priority.
The Government said in June it would consider following a UK plan to block
pornographic material until an internet user proves they are over 18. However, the British block has run into administrative problems and been delayed until later this year.
Bruton said such a measure in Ireland is not a priority in the Online
Safety Bill, a draft of which he said would be published before the end of the year.
It's not the top priority. We want to do what we committed to do, we want to have the codes of practice, he said at the Fine Gael parliamentary party think-in. We
want to have the online commissioner - those are the priorities we are committed to.
An online safety commissioner will have the power to enforce the online safety code and may in some cases be able to force social media companies to remove or
restrict access. The commissioner will have responsibility for ensuring that large digital media companies play their part in ensuring the code is complied with. It will also be regularly reviewed and updated.
Bruton's bill will allow for a more
comprehensive complaint procedure for users and alert the commissioner to any alleged dereliction of duty. The Government has been looking at Australia's pursuit of improved internet safety.
The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland will police video content on Facebook under new proposals before the Irish Government.
The Sunday Independent reports the BAI aims to become an enlarged media commission to enforce European censorship rules.
The BAI currently regulates Irish commercial radio and television as well as RTE and TG4.
With the social media giants based in Ireland, it will now regulate content on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Ireland and throughout the EU.
BAI proposals also want an Online Safety Commissioner to form part of its increased censorship role. They also speak pf age verification, parental controls and a complaints mechanism.
The Government is also keen to emulate the UK internet porn
censorship regime. Irish MP Leo Varadkar said the Irish government will consult with the UK about its new porn block and how it is working, with a view to perhaps rolling out a similar age verification system for Ireland.
Varadkar said that he was
wary of moralising . ..BUT... suggested engagement with UK government a year or two after the law has been rolled out would be wise. He said that this engagement could help ascertain if the proposals could work here.
Questions, he confirmed that an online age verification system can be discussed by the Oireachtas Communications Committee, and confirmed that legislation to set up the office of a Digital Safety Commissioner is on the way.
Charlie Flanagan has also said the Irish government will consider a similar system to the UK's porn block law as part of new legislation on online safety.
Ireland's Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan confirmed that the Irish government will consider a similar system to the UK's so-called porn block law as part of new legislation on online safety. Flanagan said:
I would be
very keen that we would engage widely to ensure that Ireland could benefit from what is international best practice here and that is why we are looking at what is happening in other jurisdictions.
The Irish communications minister
Richard Bruton said there are also issues around privacy laws and this has to be carefully dealt with. H said:
It would be my view that government through the strategy that we have published, we have a cross-government
committee who is looking at policy development to ensure online safety, and I think that forum is the forum where I believe we will discuss what should be done in that area because I think there is a genuine public concern, it hasn't been the subject of
the Law Reform Commission or other scrutiny of legislation in this area, but it was worthy of consideration, but it does have its difficulties, as the UK indeed has recognised also.