Online safety and AVMSD’s transposition: Ireland announces public consultation for a new law

posted on 06 March, 2019   (public)

Ireland intends to make online service providers responsible for the protection of minors, under the control of an Online Safety Commissioner

On 4 March 2019, Minister Bruton, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment in Ireland, launched a six-week public consultation to inform the drafting of a new Online Safety Act. The aim of this new Online Safety Act is to “protect Irish residents”, and especially children, with appropriate provisions and to “apply European Law”. According to the Minister, online and social media companies can no longer stay outside of the State regulation’s scope and online platforms must take responsibility for the contents shared on their services.

If enacted, this new Online Safety Act would apply to a wider range of content and services than those co-ordinated by the AVMSD Directive as it includes any online platform and not only audiovisual media services.

The Minister said that the new law would focus on the introduction of new regulation in four key strands:

  • Strand 1: New online safety laws to apply to Irish residents
  • Strand 2: Regulation of Video Sharing Platforms
  • Strand 3: Regulation of On Demand Services
  • Strand 4: Minor changes to regulation of traditional TV

The key objectives of the Act would define clearly categories of harmful content and would require service providers to introduce an Online Safety Code.  It would also require service providers to build safety into the design of online platforms through human and technological safeguards.  Finally, it would establish an Online Safety Commissioner.

Two options are proposed by the Minister in respect of the regulatory structure.  The first of these would involve the restructure and reform of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland as a media commission – being assigned all four regulatory strands to this regulator.  The second option would involve the the establishment of two regulators: the BAI responsible for traditional television, radio broadcasting and on-demand audiovisual media services, and a new body responsible for the other online content, including social media and video sharing platforms.

Either approach would imply restructuring of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

The new Commissioner would have clearly defined powers and roles and, for instance, could be entitled to:

  • Certify that each Online Safety Code is “fit for purpose”;
  • Require regular reports from the industry;
  • Review the provider’s content moderation process and the measures of protection implemented by the provider;
  • Require a provider to remove content within a set timeframe and impose administrative fines;
  • Publish the fact that a service has failed to comply or cooperate with the regulator;
  • Seek Court injunctions and criminal proceedings against the provider;

More specifically, with regard to the Video Sharing Platforms based in Ireland (such as YouTube):

  • Ensuring that the platforms have sufficient and effective measures of protection as well as a complaints mechanism.

The Online Safety Act would also introduce changes in the regulation of linear and non-linear audiovisual media services. The AVMS Directive requires a 30% quota of European Works on On-demand Audiovisual Media Services and allows an EU country to levy revenues generated by a traditional TV service or an on-demand audiovisual media service  in that country even if it is based in another EU country.

The consultation will be online until 15 April 2019.

Additional EPRA Background: the crucial need for the protection of minors in the online environment has been identified as one of the key issues of the annual EPRA Work Programme for 2019. This subject will therefore be on the agenda of one of the plenary sessions at both EPRA meetings held this year.

Source: Department of Communications, Climate Action & Environment (IE)