- 12 Jan 22
Minister Martin has now received Government approval to commence recruitment of an Online Safety Commissioner, who will act as a powerful regulator for the internet.
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD, is set to publish the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, paving the way for a new watchdog to regulate online services.
The Bill also hopes to reduce the availability of harmful content online, with the hiring of an Online Safety Commissioner underway to enforce accountability within the sector.
As part of the framework, the Commissioner will devise binding online safety codes that will set out how regulated online services, including certain social media services, are expected to deal with certain defined categories of harmful online content on their platforms.
The defined categories of harmful online content include criminal material, serious cyber-bullying material and material promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders.
The Online Safety Commissioner will hold a range of powers to ensure compliance, including the power to require the provision of information and to appoint authorised officers to conduct investigations.
The watchdog will be part of an established multi-person Media Commission. This new body will be responsible for overseeing updated regulations for broadcasting and video on-demand services and the new regulatory framework for online safety created by the Bill. The Media Commission will take on the current functions of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and regulate both television and radio broadcasters.
According to a press release, the body "will also have roles in relation to the protection of children, research, education, media literacy, journalistic and creative supports. In carrying out these roles the Commission will support and promote an open, trusted and pluralistic media and online environment."
Minister Martin described the Bill as a landmark point in the struggle to regulate the internet.
“The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill marks a watershed moment as we move from self-regulation to an era of accountability by platforms for online safety and a more joined up approach to audiovisual media regulation. I am pleased to be publishing this landmark piece of legislation."
Additional legislation and measures will be brought forward at European level in the coming years, the Minister adds, before thanking the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media for their pre-legislative scrutiny report.
“I am happy to say that the majority of the 33 recommendations contained in the report are addressed in the Bill I am publishing," she wrote. “There are a number of recommendations, including those regarding the provision of an individual complaints mechanism for harmful online content, that require further consideration and which I intend to address through potential amendments to the Bill at Committee Stage. In this regard, I will shortly be establishing an expert group to report to me within 90 days with recommendations for how to best address this issue.”