Written answers

Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Online Safety

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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234. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent and context of any engagements she has had with media interests with particular reference to the need to protect the privacy of the individual and protect adults, children and the vulnerable from cyber-abuse; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32768/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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Matters relating to data protection and the disclosure of personal data without authority are set out in Data Protection Act 2018, which is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice.

As regards types of cyber-abuse which do not relate to the protection of personal data, the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will address certain forms of harmful online content.  The Bill provides for the dissolution of the BAI and establishment of a new regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, which will oversee updated regulatory frameworks for broadcasting and video-on-demand service and a new regulatory framework for online safety.

To oversee the regulatory framework for online safety, Coimisiún na Meán will include an Online Safety Commissioner, whose goal will be to minimise the availability of defined categories of harmful online content through binding online safety codes, including categories of offence-specific content, serious cyberbullying content, content promoting self-harm and suicide and content promoting eating disorders.

There has been comprehensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders in respect of the Bill. In this context, during the development of the General Scheme of the OSMR Bill, my Department held a public consultation to inform drafting of the proposed Bill and a virtual workshop on the regulatory framework for online safety. The responses to the public consultation, including the names of the consultees, may be found on the gov.ie website at the following address:

www.gov.ie/en/consultation/430d0-regulation-of-harmful-online-content-and-the-implementation-of-the-revised-audiovisual-media-services-directive/.

My officials continue to engage with a wide range of stakeholders regarding the Bill as it passes through the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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235. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which she remains satisfied that adequate precautions are taken to protect the public from online bullying or abuse through social media or otherwise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32769/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will establish a multi-person Media Commission (to be known as Coimisiún na Meán) including an Online Safety Commissioner, dissolve the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, establish regulatory frameworks for online safety and the regulation of audiovisual media services, and transpose the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive.

It will be the role of the Online Safety Commissioner to oversee the regulatory framework for online safety. As part of the framework, the Commissioner will devise binding online safety codes that will set out how designated online services, including certain social media services, are expected to deal with defined categories of harmful online content on their platforms.

In particular, online safety codes will ensure that designated online services take appropriate measures to reduce the availability of content on their services which is linked to one or more of 40 existing criminal offences.

Such content will include, for example, material which is connected to relevant offences under the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020, or Coco's Law. It is intended that this will have the effect of tackling the availability, on designated online services, of intimate images which have been shared without consent and of threatening or grossly offensive communications about, or to, another person.

Outside of offence-specific content, and among others, online safety codes may also include measures that a designated online service must take to reduce the availability of online content by which a person bullies or humiliates another person. Importantly, this category of content will be subject to a risk of harm test which is set out in the Bill.

Finally, under the Bill, in the event of a failure to comply with a relevant online safety code, and subject to Court approval, Coimisiún na Meán will have the power to sanction non-compliant online services, including through financial sanctions of up to €20 million or 10% of turnover.

The Bill will shortly commence Report Stage in the Seanad and it is my intention to see it progress as quickly as possibly through the Houses to enactment.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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236. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the number of prosecutions that have been taken against those involved in online bullying over the past three years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [32770/22]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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As the Deputy will be aware, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is an independent law officer under the provisions of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1974 (as amended). As Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media I have no role in the functions of the Director or the Office of the DPP and am unable to provide statistical information relating to the functions of the Director.

Policy regarding criminal offences is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Justice, in the first instance.

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