Companies need to prepare for new Online Safety measures

14 September, 2020

  • New Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill heralds a new era for content moderation and accountability in Ireland
  • Three steps recommended by us to get ready for the changes

The Government's proposed Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill heralds a new era for online services. The EU had set a timeline of 19 September for the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) to be transposed however, with COVID-19 Ireland, along with the majority of EU states, will miss this deadline, but it is coming. Ahead of its appearance on the statute books, PwC is advising companies that are likely to be impacted by this new law, these include social media services, public boards and forums, internet service providers, e-commerce platforms and private online storage services, to begin to prepare for these new measures as soon as possible.

A photo of a team of five professionals talking over a tablet in a room with two large screens in the background.

When law, these new government measures are expected to make radical changes to the management of online content. The new legislation will break new ground in regulating harmful online content posted on online services. The key goal being to make online content safer for all users.

The proposed Bill will see an Online Safety Commissioner established as part of a new Media Commission, replacing the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, who will have responsibility for the new regulations. The new Media Commission will have the power to designate online services to be regulated under the new regime. Harmful content will be the key focus area, this includes material that is a criminal offence to disseminate, that is considered cyberbullying material or that promotes self-harm.

Damian Byrne Assurance Partner PwC said, "The Bill will have major implications for online services, fundamentally altering how harmful content will be moderated. The scope is broad and companies that facilitate any sharing of content online by users may come into scope over time. Its introduction will see these companies having to comply with new online safety codes enforced by the new Online Safety Commissioner. The Bill will set a clear expectation for these companies to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their users".

Most social media companies will already have well established content moderation or trust and safety teams with detailed standards and safety measures developed in-house.  However, to date there has been little external accountability. These organisations will now be subject to new reporting as well as external review by agents appointed by the Commissioner. For companies with their EU headquarters in Ireland, the State will become the regulator on a cross-EU basis for audiovisual content disseminated on these online services. PwC is therefore advising companies impacted by these new regulations to start preparing: put a road map in place, undertake a readiness assessment and engage early with the regulator.

Bertie Murphy Head of Customer Experience PwC Advisory concluded, "The Bill will allow the Online Safety Commissioner to set out how social media companies must moderate harmful content. Given the scale, visibility and accessibility to content we'd anticipate large social media companies to be regulated first. We urge all social media companies to start preparing now including putting a road map in place, undertaking a readiness assessment and to plan for early engagement with the regulator".

Notes to editors

Content moderation is the practice of monitoring and applying a set of rules and guidelines to user-generated submissions to determine best if the communication (a post, in particular) is permissible or not on a platform.

Who will be impacted by the new Bill?

The Bill sets out a broad range of companies that will be impacted these include:

  • Social media services
  • Public boards and forums
  • Online gaming services
  • E-commerce services
  • Private communication services
  • Private, online storage services
  • Online search engines
  • Internet service providers
  • Telecos

Companies that fail to regulate harmful content posted on their platforms will face reprimands up to and including fines.

Key PwC recommendations

Put a road map in place

Design a road map to assist in transitioning to the new framework, aiming to:

  • Assess current regulatory readiness and design a strategy to transition to the new regulatory framework
  • Implement new ways of working and monitor compliance with the commissioner
  • Ensure your staff have the appropriate training

Undertake a readiness assessment

  • Get an accurate snapshot of the current state of readiness
  • Define a list of recommendations to help bridge the gap between with the current state and deliver the desired state

Early engagement with regulator

  • Establish an engagement plan to outline the approach to communicate with the commissioner
  • Appoint an engagement lead to coordinate all communications with the commissioner

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Contact us

Damian Byrne

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8647

Bertie Murphy

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8581

Johanna Dehaene

Corporate Communications, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 6547

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