Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Online Safety

Photo of Martin KennyMartin Kenny (Sligo-Leitrim, Sinn Fein)
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319. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht if she plans to make matters relating to action 14.2 of the Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-2019 a legal requirement in the upcoming online safety and media regulation Bill; the powers a proposed online safety commissioner may have to pursue these statistics from industry; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44390/20]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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Action 14.2 of the Action Plan for Online Safety 2018-2019 aims to work with online platforms based in Ireland in order to publish regular transparency reports in relation to their efforts to tackle illegal and non-illegal but potentially harmful online content on their services.

This action was assigned to the Department of Justice and to the then Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

Responsibility for broadcasting and media policy, including elements of online safety policy, was transferred from the latter Department o the new Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media on 23 September 2020.

The Department of Justice is progressing this action from the standpoint that transparency reports for tackling illegal online content, for example in relation to the Terrorism Content Regulation. It is accepted that such transparency reports need to be worked out on an operational basis before work progresses in relation to non-illegal but potentially harmful online content. As such, at this point, the Department of Justice are best placed to directly update on progress relating to action 14.2.

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is designed to tackle the spread and amplification of defined categories of illegal and non-illegal but potentially harmful online content. It will do this by providing for regulatory oversight by an Online Safety Commissioner of the systems that online services use to deliver and moderate user-generated content. Among other things, the Online Safety Commissioner would be able to require, through binding online safety codes, reporting by regulated online services. Such reports may include publicly available transparency reports.

In the event of a regulated entity failing to comply with a requirement of an online safety code, the Media Commission will have the power to initiate authorised officer investigations and to issue compliance and warning notices, setting out the steps the entity must take to bring itself back into compliance. Failure to comply with a warning notice may lead to the Media Commission seeking to apply a sanction, including financial sanctions of up to €20m or 10% of turnover.

The Government approved the finalisation of the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill on 8 December 2020. The Minister published the finalised General Scheme alongside an extensive regulatory impact analysis and other explanatory documents on 9 December. These documents are available on gov.ie. The Government has requested the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Media, Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and the Gaeltacht to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny of the General Scheme at their earliest convenience. Detailed drafting of a draft Bill on the basis of the General Scheme by the Office of the Attorney General is ongoing. It is expected that the Bill will be enacted in 2021.


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