The government has agreed to start the recruitment process for an online safety commissioner.
The move comes after Tourism, Culture, Arts and Media Minister Catherine Martin secured government approval to publish the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill.
The commissioner will develop rules on how social media services must deal with harmful online content.
Harmful online content includes criminal material, serious cyberbullying material, and material promoting self-harm, suicide, and eating disorders.
The Commissioner will have the power to appoint authorized officers to conduct investigations.
In the event of non-compliance with an online safety code, and subject to court approval, the media commission will have the power to impose financial penalties of up to 20 million euros or 10 % of sales.
Under legislation presented to the government this morning, the Media Commission would take over the current functions of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and regulate broadcasters and broadcasters.
The Commission will also be responsible for regulating video-on-demand services.
The regulations that apply to these services will be set out in media codes and rules and will address issues such as programming standards, advertising, sponsorship and product placement.
Minister Catherine Martin said the new legislation could be enacted before the summer holidays.
She said an Oireachtas committee had proposed an individual complaint mechanism for harmful online content.
“In this regard, I will soon establish an expert group that will report to me within 90 days with recommendations on how best to solve this problem,” the minister said.
However, speaking on Drivetime, she said providing an individual complaints mechanism is complicated.
“It’s quite a complex area and there are practical issues. For example, we could deal with individual complaints for a population of up to 450 million, as we would be dealing with the whole EU if the platform were based in Ireland. .
“It would be quite a large volume of content, but if it can be done, I would really like to see it done. I will announce the panel next week,” Minister Martin confirmed.
Regarding the appointment of an online safety commissioner, Minister Martin said Ireland was moving from an era of self-regulation to an era of accountability.
“One of the most important aspects of the bill is that it establishes a powerful regulator to enforce accountability in the industry and the Media Commission will include an Online Safety Commissioner to enforce, not only this legislation, but also additional legislation and measures that can be taken forward at European level,” she said.
“The Commissioner will develop binding online safety codes which will set out how regulated online services are expected to deal with certain defined categories of harmful online content. These include criminal material, serious cyberbullying material, material promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders.
“The commissioner will have a range of powers to ensure compliance. The powers include powers to audit and require the provision of information. If the service is suspected of being non-compliant, the commission can appoint an officer authorized to investigate,” the minister said. Martin added.
However, Technology Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the tech industry, has expressed concern that the timeline for the Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill will extend beyond this summer.
He wants more urgent progress to be made in the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and for other online security provisions to be brought into line with the requirements of the Digital Services Act.
Director Una Fitzpatrick said the delay did not reflect the urgency of establishing the Media Commission and implementing the Audiovisual and Media Services Directive (AVMS).
“Ireland will be among the last EU member states to implement the online safety framework provided by the AVMS Directive,” she said.
“The policy landscape has evolved significantly since this bill was first announced, with the EU’s proposed harmonized approach to online safety through the Digital Services Act (DSA) nearing finalization. “
“Based on the timelines currently expected, the DSA will be finalized before this bill becomes law and it remains unclear how certain provisions of this bill will be consistent with that.”
CyberSafeKids welcomed the release of the revised bill.
“A concern however is that two key recommendations relating to the establishment of an individual complaints mechanism are not yet fully engaged,” said its CEO, Alex Cooney.
“It remains imperative that an individual complaints mechanism is included in the final legislation.”