The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is to pass through the Oireachtas in the near future. Part of this legislation will see the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner. This role is part of a new Media Commission which will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
The Media Commission will have the power to designate which online services will be regulated under the new regime. Ultimately, designated online services will have new regulated responsibilities on how they manage and remove harmful content that is distributed on their platforms.
The main online social media platforms have well established Content Moderation or Trust and Safety teams. They follow complex and detailed standards developed in-house to maintain the integrity of content on their platforms. Their focus to date has been on maintaining a safe environment for users and ensuring that advertisers continue to want to use the platform, and be associated with the content it contains.
The bill is one of the first of its kind in the world. It is breaking new ground in how online services will be required to deal with harmful content. To date, online platforms have self-regulated, setting their own safety measures and having little external accountability. The introduction of this new Bill will see designated online services having to comply with binding online safety codes made and enforced by the new Commissioner.
The bill will set a clear expectation for online services to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their users. Designated online services will be subject to new reporting as well as external review by agents appointed by the Commissioner. Services that fail to regulate harmful content shared on their platforms will face reprimands up to and including fines.
The bill sets out a broad range of individual services or categories of services that may be designated by the Media Commission for regulation. These include:
We anticipate that the initial focus of the Commissioner will be on large online social media services that distribute content. This is due to their large user bases and the potential and relative impact of distributing harmful content on these platforms.
We are encouraging online services that expect to be designated to start preparing now. There are four key areas for them to focus on:
PwC Ireland has significant expertise working with global online services. This, allied to our international and local regulatory experience across all sectors allows us to bring the right experience at the right time to support you on this regulatory journey. Contact us today.