Dáil debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022: Second Stage (Resumed)


1:45 pm

Photo of Martin BrowneMartin Browne (Tipperary, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill. In recent years, the self-regulation of online media has not worked.

Social media operators have always tried to present their obligations as being subject to levels of oversight and standards different from those that apply to traditional media. This has led to regulation that is difficult to enforce and allowed them to shirk responsibility. That is the reason it is past time that this Bill came before the Houses of the Oireachtas. If it is to be effective, we need an individual complaints mechanism that does not submit to the pressures exerted by the social media giants off this world. While I am pleased the Bill provides for a complaints mechanism, I would appreciate it if the Minister would outline her intentions when it comes to an individual complaints mechanism, as called for by the Ombudsman for Children, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, ISPCC, and others.

On a positive note, I am pleased to see the Bill makes provision for additional categories of offences to be added in the future. I hope this will enable the legislation to keep pace with innovations in the online world. It is past time that regulations changed in step with advances online. Tightened and more encompassing regulations only work if there is somebody is in place to regulate online content. We must ensure the regulations that are set down can be overseen adequately, which means providing proper staffing, resources and support. I refer to support because the well-being of staff whose job may be to review harmful content must be paramount. We must ensure their mental health and well-being are safeguarded.

Compellability is another issue. We must ensure the provisions in this regard are robust enough and the old ways of Internet companies are brought to an end. They must be held accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities.

I appreciate the inclusion in the Bill of exemptions provided to community radio and television stations from paying an industry levy, as well as the creation of a bursary scheme for journalists in community and local radio stations. These media outlets must be shown the importance of the service they provide to their communities. Often running on shoestring budgets, these stations acted as a pivotal point for communities during the pandemic. Their efforts reduced isolation among those who found themselves alone at home. They also chronicle local life, local ways and the nature of a locality. They preserve a community's history and promote its identity. They are invaluable and should be shown the appreciation they deserve.


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