Written answers

Thursday, 21 March 2024

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Social Media

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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216. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the progress to date in introducing measures to counteract misinformation, disinformation and abuse on social media platforms; if additional measures are proposed, when same will be introduced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [13491/24]

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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Disinformation (and misinformation) are complex issues that can have wide-ranging effects on society and democracy. No one approach can solve them. Education, media literacy initiatives, legislation and other regulatory approaches can be and are key tools in Ireland’s response to disinformation.

The development of a national strategy to counter disinformation was a recommendation of the Future of Media Commission, which called for a more coordinated and strategic approach to combat the damaging impact of disinformation on Irish society and democracy.

A Working Group tasked with developing the Strategy was established in February 2023. It is independently chaired and comprises representatives from Government Departments, public bodies, industry, academia and civil society, with coordination being provided by my Department.

The Working Group has met monthly since its establishment and has heard from a range of experts in different fields related to disinformation. The Working Group compiled a Scoping Paper with five draft principles as the basis for an online public consultation process that ran from 25 September to 20 October 2023. In addition, a stakeholder consultation event was held on 29 November 2023. It is expected that the National Counter Disinformation Strategy will be published in Q2 2024.

More information on the development of the Strategy is available at www.gov.ie/en/publication/04f9e-national-counter-disinformation-strategy-working-group/

In terms of abuse on social media, the commencement of the Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Act in March 2023, the establishment of Coimisiún na Meán and the coming into force of the Digital Services Act (DSA) are landmark developments.

Under the OSMR, An Coimisiún is developing an online safety code, which would provide for obligations on video-sharing platform services with the aim of minimising the availability and exposure of users, and particularly children, to some of the most serious forms of harmful online content. Among other things, this includes online content related to certain existing criminal offences, such as those set out in the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989 and the Harassment, Harmful Communications and Related Offences Act 2020.

As Ireland’s Digital Services Coordinator under the DSA, An Coimisiún will support the European Commission, as the primary enforcer of regulatory obligations applying to Very Large Online Platforms and Search Engines. Among other things, the obligations applying to these services include requirements to complete risk assessments in relation to the risk of exposure of their users to illegal online content and the risk of their service being manipulated, including to spread disinformation. Once the risks are identified, these services must take mitigation measures to address the risk of user exposure to this content.

Together these measures mark an end the era of self-regulation for many online services, including social media platforms.


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