Establishment of Coimisiúin na Meán
The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 ("OSMR") established the Coimisiúin na Meán as the new commission for regulating broadcasters and online media in Ireland. In addition to its role as the supervisory authority under the OSMR, and as Ireland’s Digital Services Coordinator under the Digital Services Act (''DSA''), it was also designated as the competent authority under the Terrorism Content Online Regulation (''TCO'').
In June 2023, Coimisiúin na Meán published its first Work Programme. Coimisiún na Meán has committed to establishing a regulatory framework for online safety, updating the regulation of television broadcasting and audiovisual on-demand services, and transposing the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (''AVMSD'') into Irish law.
Online Safety Code for Video Sharing Platform Services
On 8 December 2023, Coimisiúin na Meán opened a public consultation on its draft Online Safety Code (''OSC'') for Video Sharing Platform Services (''VSPSs''). The deadline for submissions was recently extended to 31 January 2024 following requests from industry and civil society organisations.
The OSC (which is based on the OSMR, DSA and TCO) can be applied to designated VSPSs. Once the OSC is finalised, it will form part of Ireland’s overall online safety framework and will be binding on all designated VSPSs based in Ireland.
The draft OSC sets out a number of measures which designated VSPSs would be obliged to implement. For example under Section 11 of the draft OSC, VSPSs would be required to establish "a mechanism to
(i) describe the age verification, age estimation or other technical measures used;
(ii) describe the way in which the measures are used to restrict access to the service(s);
(iii) set targets for the number of children (in different age ranges determined by the service provider) who are wrongly identified as adults through the service provider’s age verification, age estimation or other technical measures;
(iv) evaluate the accuracy and the effectiveness of their age estimation systems, age verification systems, or other technical measures, including whether the mechanisms used have enabled the service provider to reach the targets set under (iii); and
(v) using surveys or other means, estimate the number of users who are children using their service."
VSPSs would also be required to prevent the uploading or sharing of a range of illegal content, including such content that fosters incitement to hatred or violence. See our recent update regarding the Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Bill 2022 here.
Designation of Video Sharing Platform Services
Under the Broadcasting Act 2009 (as amended by the OSMR), Coimisiúin na Meán must designate named VSPSs for regulatory purposes first with regulation taking the form of the OSC.
On 9 January 2024, in advance of the consultation deadline, Coimisiúin na Meán published details of the designation of ten services as named VSPSs with the designation of these services being completed in late December 2023.
The designated services are;
- X (formerly Twitter)
Coimisiúin na Meán has responsibility for overseeing compliance with new regulations for broadcasting providers, video-on-demand providers and VSPSs. The OSMR introduced a number of requirements on entities within its scope to monitor and combat harmful online content. The OSMR also empowers the Commission to prosecute summary offences, which, depending on the category of offence, carry a penalty of up to a €5,000 fine and / or 12 months' imprisonment.
Section 14 of the draft OSC provides a summary of the enforcement procedures in respect of the OSC. Under the draft OSC, Coimisiún na Meán will be able to impose fines on VSPSs of a maximum of €20 million or, if greater, 10 per cent of its relevant turnover in the financial year preceding. Coimisiún na Meán must have regard to the provisions of the OSMR in determining the applicable fine.
It is clear that Coimisiúin na Meán intends to finalise the OSC expeditiously. In its press release on 8 December 2023, Niamh Hodnett, Online Safety Commissioner noted that “Once the consultation closes, we will move to finalise Ireland’s first online safety code. We will be seeking approval from the European Commission to implement the code."
We will continue to monitor the progress of the Code and provide further updates in due course.
Please get in touch with Michael Byrne or your usual Matheson contact, should you require further information in relation to the material referred to in this article. Visit our Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution and Data Protection, Privacy and Cyber-security pages to stay up to date with the latest updates, articles and briefing notes.