This week I was pleased to publish new provisions to the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, which will introduce a fair, proportionate regulatory framework for online safety, encompassing the regulation of certain online services, including social media companies. This is a crucial piece of legislation that will put an end to the era of soft regulation of online platforms, and ensure Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to do so in a systemic way.
Ireland will now be regulating many of the significant online companies on behalf of all EU member states with major European headquarters set up here. New EU rules for video on-demand services are also implemented under this Bill that will ensure they are regulated in a similar way to television broadcasters. The Bill also proposes the introduction of a content production levy on media services in Ireland and in Europe, which has the potential to support the production of quality Irish content.
However, prior to its introduction research will be undertaken to demonstrate that the levy would be of sufficient benefit and provide meaningful support to the production of Irish content.
A new regulator, the Media Commission, will be established by the Bill to regulate broadcasters, video on-demand services and online safety. This new commission will include an Online Safety Commissioner who will be empowered to address the spread of harmful online content, such as criminal material, serious cyberbullying and material promoting self-harm, suicide or eating disorders. Online platforms that fail to comply with regulations will face serious financial sanctions, and there are also potential criminal sanctions for senior employees of these companies.
For many years light touch regulation has been the norm for video on-demand services. This year of social distancing has proven how essential online tools are for work, school and staying in touch with loved ones. The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will establish more appropriate regulation of these services and ensure that they are subjected to similar regulatory obligations as television broadcasters.
Catherine Martin TD
Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media
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