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.