The Government has approved the general scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill and the start of detailed legal drafting of the Bill by the Office of the Attorney General.
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 content.
The Bill provides for the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner as part of a wider Media Commission to oversee the new regulatory framework for online safety. The Commissioner will govern this new framework through binding online safety codes and robust compliance, enforcement and sanction powers.
Online safety codes will deal with a wide range of issues, including measures to be taken by online services to tackle the availability of harmful online content, for example cyberbullying material, on their services.
The Media Commission will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and will also take on the role of regulating the audiovisual sector.
In broad terms, the proposed Bill seeks to provide for:
- The establishment of a multi-person Media Commission, including an Online Safety Commissioner,
- The dissolution of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and the assignment of all the present functions of the Authority to the Media Commission,
- The transposition of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, including those provisions of the Directive relating to the regulation of video sharing platform services,
- The establishment of a framework for the regulation of online safety to address the proliferation of harmful online content to be administered by an Online Safety Commissioner, and,
- The provision to the Media Commission of appropriate compliance and sanction powers, including the power to seek the imposition of administrative financial sanctions.