Individual complaints mechanism for online content to be examined

An expert group will be tasked by Government with examining whether there should be a mechanism for individual complaints about online content under plans for a new media watchdog.

The Minister for Media Catherine Martin yesterday published details around the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill which will establish a new watchdog to regulate harmful content and online services.

An Oireachtas committee last year called for an individual complaints mechanism to be established for designated online platforms.

Ms Martin said an expert group will be announced next week which will examine the issue and report back within 90 days. “If it can be done, it will be done,” she said.

The department previously said in 2020 that it was not feasible to do this because in many cases the new media commission will be regulating many popular online services on a pan-EU basis for over 400 million people. They also said that the scale of material online that a person may find objectionable would require disproportionate resourcing. Ms Martin said there had been further scrutiny of the issue since then and that she did not want to rule out introducing such a measure without a full examination.

“I think this has to be examined. It is due to the complexity of it, that is why I am seeking this 90 day expert group… it is not something we could have rushed and ruled out at this stage. We have seen it done in Australia in for example, but that is a very different population to the 450 million that we might be looking after, dealing with individual complaints.”

The Bill establishes a new regulator and a media commission which will set regulations for the broadcast and video on demand services such as Netflix and Disney+, for example.

It also provides for an online safety commissioner to enforce the legislation.

The commissioner will set binding safety codes to outline how social media services should deal with harmful content including criminal material, serious cyber bullying material and material promoting self-harm, suicide and eating disorders.

Online platforms such as Google-owned YouTube and Facebook could be fined as much as 10 per cent of their Irish turnover if they fail to comply with the new rules.

Any fine would be subject to court approval.

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