The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton today (Thursday the 26th of June) published all submissions received to the public consultation on the introduction of a new Online Safety Act.
In March of this year, Minister Bruton brought forward detailed proposals for a new online safety law to protect children from harmful content online. The measures outlined by the Minister included the operation of an online safety code by each operator and a requirement to build safety into the design of new systems. It was proposed that a new law would be overseen by a regulator, an Online Safety Commissioner. A public consultation was commenced on these proposals and submissions were invited from all interested parties. Today the Minister is publishing all submissions received.
Minister Bruton said,
"New technology has transformed our lives. It provides huge opportunities for us all, however it also presents new risks which did not exist previously.
"Earlier this year I put forward proposals for a new online safety law to protect our children online. This new law will be overseen by a powerful new regulator, an Online Safety Commissioner. Upon outlining my proposals, I commenced a short six week consultation on them to hear the views of the wider community.
"Today I am publishing all submissions received to this consultation on my Department's website. I'd like to thank all those who have contributed.
"All views will be considered now as we develop legislation in this area. I would like to make clear however, that while we are listening to all points of view, we will not accept a situation whereby online companies are permitted to regulate themselves. That day is gone. We need better controls in place. I will bring draft heads of bill to Government once all matters have been considered."
Full details of the consultation can be accessed here: https://www.dccae.gov.ie/en-ie/communications/consultations/Pages/Regulation-of-Harmful-Online-Content-and-the-Implementation-of-the-revised-Audiovisual-Media-Services-Directive.aspx
All submissions can be accessed here:
Notes to Editor
The consultation regarding a new Online Safety Act suggested that the following new requirements would be placed on operators:
- To operate an Online Safety Code, which would set out the steps they are taking to keep their users safe online
- To include in their code a number of issues at a minimum (e.g. a prohibition of cyber bullying material; provide a complaints procedure where people can request material be taken down, with timelines)
- To build safety into the design of online platforms through the application of technology and human intervention
The Minister said that in passing an Online Safety Act it was important to set out clearly the powers and role of the Online Safety Commissioner. It is proposed that a number of powers could be provided to the Commissioner, including to:
- Certify that each Online Safety Code is either "fit for purpose" or require changes to it.
- Require regular reports from industry on a range of issues including content moderation, review, adjudication of appeals etc.
- Review the measures which a service has in place or to review the company's content moderation teams as they are operating
- Require a service to remove an individual piece of content within a set timeframe, on receipt of an appeal from a user who is dissatisfied with the response they have received to a complaint submitted to the service provider, following an ajudication by the Online Safety Commissioner
- To issue interim and final notices to services in relation to failures of compliance and the power to seek Court injunctions to enforce the notices of the regulator
- To impose administrative fines in relation to failures of compliance
- To publish the fact that a service has failed to comply or cooperate with the regulator
- To seek that criminal proceedings be brought against the service provider (i.e. where an offence is created of a service provider not cooperating with the regulator, e.g. by failing to put measures in place, by failing to provide information to the regulator) that the regulator would have the power to bring proceedings.
The Best Way to Regulate
The consultation proposed two ways in which an Online Safety Commissioner can be established, including:
- A Media Commission: establish a new Media Commission by restructuring the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, along the lines of the multi-Commissioner Competition and Consumer Protection Commission. Establish the Online Safety Commissioner as a powerful office within that structure.
- Two Regulators: Two regulatory bodies, one of which would involve restructuring the BAI and assigning it responsibility for content which is subject to editorial control (traditional television and radio broadcasting and on-demand audiovisual media services). The second online safety regulator would be a new body responsible for online content that is not subject to editorial controls (such as social media and video sharing platforms etc)