Dáil debates

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022: Second Stage


4:27 pm

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I am happy to speak in support of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. There is a whole realm of online content that is pretty unsavoury. We all have to use the Internet every day socially and indeed for work. However, there is a real murky side to it too. Finally we are going to be putting forward legislation that will be enacted and will help us to police that better.

The legislation paves the way for a new watchdog to regulate online services and to reduce the availability of harmful content. It will also establish a new regulator, a multi-person media commission to which an online safety commissioner will be appointed. It will establish online safety codes. The really important thing here is that it will become a responsible entity with a responsible individual overseeing it.

Heretofore what we have seen is that, in the large social media outlets in particular, all sorts of content appears on their platforms and they are inadequate, so far as I can ascertain, in terms of policing it themselves. Not a week goes by but that I have to report certain comments or things coming my way. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all social media platforms, in fact, seem incapable of effectively policing this. The real litmus test will be how social media platforms and search engines respond to this legislation when it is brought into play. We saw in recent weeks how Elon Musk is embroiled in an argument with Twitter over how it polices its content and how it filters messaging and tweets. If that is happening at the highest level, with the richest man in the world squabbling with the company he was trying to buy, one would hope there will be enough meat in this legislation to really rein in the practice. I would say most Members of this House have had to make complaints to An Garda Síochána at one time or another. Very often it can be a face-to-face interaction that can be unsavoury but I have had a number of occasions where there has been horrendous stuff happening online, stuff I have been subjected to myself. I am not going to get into it here in this Chamber. Each time I went to the Garda, it found itself pretty powerless in terms of following up on it. The more legislation and regulation we get going in this regard, the stronger the provisions will be.

It is really for the youngsters, the children of our classrooms. I was a schoolteacher for 16 years. They are so vulnerable to this. As parents we are only fighting back when they are five or six, trying to deny them iPads and access to gaming platforms. Before they are 11 or 12 they have phones. They live in an online world and we need to protect them.


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