Online safety bill signed into law

Online safety bill signed into law

Landmark legislation establishing a regulatory framework for online safety overseen by the new Coimisiún na Meán has been signed into law.

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 will allow for the appointment of an online safety commissioner empowered to make binding online safety codes to hold designated online services to account for how they tackle the availability of some of the most serious forms of harmful online content.

The commissioner is also empowered under the Act to introduce an individual complaints mechanism on a phased basis, focusing initially on children and to order the removal or limitation of availability of specific items of harmful online content, either on foot of a complaint or on its own initiative.

The new law also provides for updates to the regulation of TV broadcasting and video on-demand services, bringing video on-demand services under statutory regulation for the first time.

Coimisiún na Meán will have powers to appoint authorised officers to conduct investigations of suspected non-compliance, to require the provision of information and to seek administrative financial sanctions of up to €20 million or 10 per cent of turnover. Providers of regulated services who remain in breach of the rules may be subject to criminal prosecution.

Catherine Martin, the minister for tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht, sport and media, said: “The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 is a crucial piece of legislation. It modernises the regulation of the media ecosystem in Ireland and lays the foundations for the new regulatory frontier of online safety which will be of great importance to protecting children online.

“Key to this is the establishment of a new, robust and agile regulator, Coimisiún na Meán, whose remit will continue to grow in the coming years. The recruitment processes for the various commissioner posts is coming to a close and I expect to be in a position to announce appointments in the near future.

“An Coimisiún will ultimately be responsible for enforcing key pieces of EU regulatory legislation, including the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive, the Digital Services Act and aspects of the Terrorist Content Regulation. It will also have an important role in ensuring media sustainability and development.

“This Act is the first step in what will be a rolling legislative programme in this space over the coming years.”

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