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Digital leaders could be held personally responsible for online safety breaches – minister
Minister Richard Bruton Pic: RollingNews.ie

10 Jan 2020 / legislation Print

Online safety could be pinned on digital leaders

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) is to be replaced with a Media Commission to regulate the entire audio-visual sector.

Communications minister Richard Bruton today (Friday) published draft legislative plans to establish a "robust regulatory framework" for harmful online content.

The move will make digital content providers legally obliged to comply with new online safety codes.

Designated online services subject to the new regulation will include social media, public boards and forums, online gaming, eCommerce, private communications, private online storage, online search engines, and internet service providers.

New era

"This new law is the start of a new era of accountability," said Minister Bruton.

The general scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, was published by the minister, who says it is the first of its kind worldwide.

The bill will provide for the establishment of a new Online Safety Commissioner with "significant powers to sanction companies for non-compliance".

The new position will be part of an inaugural Media Commission, replacing the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

Minister Bruton said today that the era of self-regulation for online companies was over.

'Protect our children'

“Digital technology has transformed every aspect of our lives, and we must put in place measures to protect our children online," he said.

"This new law is one of the first of its kind in the world, and is breaking new ground in terms of how online services will be required to deal with harmful content."

The new Online Safety Commissioner will be responsible for designating which online services should be covered under the new law.

These designated services will be required to comply with binding online safety codes.

Compliance notice

In the cases of breaches, the commission will be able to issue a compliance notice, demanding removal or restoration, and then a warning notice, before proceeding to a court-approved sanction.

The court sanctions will include as-yet-unspecified financial penalties; compelling the online service to take certain actions; and take-down of an offending online service.

Robust framework

The minister said: "We are putting in place a robust framework to ensure, as best we can, that all of us, but especially our children, are protected from harmful content online.

"While it would be impossible to protect people from every danger, this new law will ensure the era of self-regulation is over, and that online companies are subject to much stricter standards and sanctions."

The new Online Safety Commissioner will have responsibility for regulating content posted on the web and social media platforms, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.


Minister Bruton said he hadn’t ruled out holding individuals personally accountable for breaches, as is currently being planned under British law.

"Failure to act on the Online Safety Commissioner's proposals will be a criminal offence, and criminal offences will, if you like, earmark individuals [who] can be prosecuted for such offences.

"So the concept of individuals being prosecuted under this legislation is still very much open."



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