Prepare for the establishment of the Online Safety Commissioner

11 September, 2020

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.

A photo of a man and woman looking at a tablet surrounded by computer screens in a dark office.

Why does this bill matter?

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.

Who will be impacted by the bill?

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:

  • Video sharing platform services
  • 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
  • Telcos

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.

How to prepare for the new regulations

We are encouraging online services that expect to be designated to start preparing now. There are four key areas for them to focus on:

1. Confirm you have a fit-for-purpose governance framework

  • Review your organisational structure, reporting lines and decision-making authorities to ensure it promotes effective risk management and compliance
  • Consider if your internal policies, controls and procedures are appropriate

 

2. Define a Regulatory Engagement Model

  • Define principles for ongoing regulatory engagement and responsibility for regulatory communications
  • Develop and establish an early relationship with the regulator once appointed

3. Develop transparent and effective operations

  • Conduct a risk and impact assessment across your operation (including third-party service providers)
  • Test the robustness of processes for monitoring, assessment and decision-making on harmful content

4. Begin assessing ongoing compliance and seek assurances

  • Stand-up compliance monitoring and testing
  • Conduct an independent risk and controls review
  • Seek assurance that third party service providers are also compliant with internal standards

We are here to help you

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.

Contact us

Damian Byrne

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8647

Amy Ball

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 5836

Michael McDaid

Partner, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 7950

Bertie Murphy

Director, PwC Ireland (Republic of)

Tel: +353 1 792 8581

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