Wednesday, 21 September 2022
Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022: Second Stage
Thomas Gould (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source
I commend the Minister, the Department and the committee on the work they have done on the Bill to date. I know there has been a high level of stakeholder engagement and some of that has been taken on board and is reflected in the legislation. I encourage the Minister to maintain that engagement going forward as this is a complex and rapidly transforming area of law.
I wish to quickly address the importance of the Bill in the context of gambling harm and the potential impact of the Bill in terms of reducing gambling harm, particularly among younger people. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice has completed pre-legislative scrutiny on the gambling regulation Bill and is awaiting the publication of the legislation. In the interim, however, a CEO has been appointed. I wish her well in her role and look forward to meeting her to discuss her plan of action. It has taken eight years but, finally, we have a person in place who I hope will have a much-needed impact on the regulation of gambling and the reduction of harm. I have undertaken a series of meetings with various stakeholders, including large social media companies, regarding the impact their services have on those who are vulnerable to gambling harm.
There are some seriously concerning trends. Most recently, a large gambling company promoted advertising through other companies. I was on a social media site recently and watched a video from Comedy Central only to see, at the bottom of the screen, a big promotion from a large gambling company. The video was topped and tailed with gambling advertisements. Similar links between newspapers and gambling companies have come up on other social media sites. I know the Minister made some movement on this issue on Report Stage in the Seanad and, while that is good to see, I am not convinced it is strong enough or goes far enough. There is a difference between having regard to policy and having a formal relationship. I believe the media regulator and the gambling regulator require the latter. Social media platforms must do more and must be held responsible because they are not protecting people, especially younger people and children, from online bullying and abuse. Anonymous accounts that viciously attack people must be stopped or shut down. Social media companies must not be allowed to self-regulate because their self-regulation so far has failed to protect people. It is their duty to protect people. Cyberbullying is a scourge and, unfortunately, we have see the tragedy that can occur when young people are bullied beyond belief.
I commend the work that is being done on the legislation but I encourage the Minister to go further and be stronger.