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Days of self-regulation by social media giants are gone – minister

28 Jun 2019 / REGULATION Print

Days of self-regulation by social media giants are gone – minister

There have been 84 submissions made to the Department of Communications in response to a public consultation on the introduction of a new Online Safety Act

Views were requested on how best to regulate online content in the form of 16 questions. Minister Richard Bruton (Communications, Climate Action and Environment) will consider the submissions and decide whether to appoint a new regulator with responsibility for online safety.

The new legislation proposes the creation of an Online Safety Commissioner, who would review how companies moderate their content, how best to compel companies to remove content within a certain timeframe, and what fines should be imposed on those who fail to comply.  

Defining ‘harmful content’

Google and Facebook have urged that any legislation not be too restrictive. They also say that ‘harmful content’ needs to be defined. The social media giants have also asked that fines not be overly punitive.

Other companies who made submissions include: Apple, RTÉ, Virgin Media, Vodafone, the Data Protection Commission, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland.

Charities and human rights bodies also made submissions, including the Irish Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Irish Council for Civil Liberties. 

An end to self-regulation? 

Minister Bruton said: “While we are listening to all points of view, we will not accept a situation whereby online companies are permitted to regulate themselves. That day is gone. We need better controls in place.” 

RTÉ cited an example of inadequate controls yesterday, reporting that the CEO of Facebook had said that the company had taken too long to flag as false an altered video of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that appeared to show the Democratic representative slurring her words and tripping through a speech. Mark Zuckerberg commented that the slow response was “an execution mistake on our side”. 

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland