Court dismisses actions taken by Reddit and Tumblr against Ireland's media regulator

Court Dismisses Actions Taken By Reddit And Tumblr Against Ireland's Media Regulator
A picture taken on October 5, 2021 in Toulouse shows the logo of Reddit social media displayed by a by a tablet and a smartphone. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP) (Photo by LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)
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High Court reporters

The High Court has dismissed separate challenges by Reddit and Tumblr against the decision by the State's media regulator to include them in a list of video-sharing platforms to be subject to a new online safety code.

Ms Justice Siobhan Phelan rejected all of the media companies' arguments against Coimisiún na Meán decisions.


Both companies claimed that they should not have been included on the list and that the decisions will severely and adversely affect the operation of their platforms if allowed to stand.

In its judicial review action, Reddit asked the court to quash Coimisiún na Meán's December 2023 decision to designate Reddit as a named video-sharing platform service.

Reddit Inc, of Wilmington, Delaware, claimed it did not meet the definition of a video-sharing platform under the relevant EU Audio Visual and Media Services (AVMS) directive which was implemented here by the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022.

Tumblr Inc, which is also US based, claimed in its judicial review that a similar decision made by Coimisiún na Meán in respect of it was invalid, and amounted to a misinterpretation and misapplication of the definition of a VSPS under EU law and Irish broadcasting legislation.


While similar in nature the two cases had raised different legal points and were heard and determined by the judge separately.

Coimisiún na Meán opposed both actions, and rejected the platform's claims that the decisions amounted to errors of law, were irrational and unreasonable.

The court in its decisions noted claims that the new code was introduced by Coimisiún na Meán because Ireland is facing infringement proceedings in the European Court of Justice.

This is for failing to transpose EU law on the regulatory framework for audio-visual media, including traditional TV broadcasters, video-sharing platform services and on-demand services.


The court also heard that until the code proposed by the regulator is fully implemented, the AVMS directive will not have been fully transposed into Irish law.

In her judgement regarding Reddit's action, Ms Justice Phelan said the firm's case centred around two central arguments.

Firstly, as the applicant is a US corporate body, it argued that on a proper interpretation of the directive, Reddit was not subject to the jurisdiction of the Irish State.

Secondly, it submitted that the respondent erred in law in its interpretation of sections of the directive by treating Reddit's own or native videos the same as hyperlinked or embedded video, which are external to it, when it came to considering if Reddit should be included on the list of designated platforms.


The judge rejected those arguments and said there was "no ambiguity or contradiction" arising from the respondent's differing treatment of each type of video when Coimisiún na Meán arrived at its decision.

The judge added that Reddit's arguments on jurisdiction amounted to a fundamental misunderstanding of the legal framework governing the determination of jurisdiction under the laws regarding video sharing platforms.

The judge said "great care", "following a fully open and transparent process", had been taken by the respondent before it decided to include Reddit on its list.

There was the judge added "ample sufficiency of material available" to Coimisiún na Meán "to support its decision" regarding Reddit.


Reddit's application to refer the matter to the EU Court of Justice was also dismissed by the judge.

In relation to microblogging site Tumblr's claims, Ms Justice Phelan said that its main argument was that it should not have been included because of the volume of video published on its platform.

It claims that its video content was minor and ancillary to its activities.

Coimisiún na Meán, Tumblr argued, had erred in law by including it in the list, because it had not properly regarded data it was provided that showed the low rate of video on Tumblr.

However the court rejected Tumblr's arguments, and said that the respondent properly interpreted and applied the proper criteria applicable under the relevant AVMS directive.

It had not been established that Coimisiún na Meán had based its decision to designate Tumblr as a named video sharing platform other than in a proper manner, the judge said.

All relevant issues and indicators had been considered by Coimisiún na Meán as part of its overall assessment on whether to include Tumblr on the list of video sharing platforms.

Coimisiún na Meán was entitled to conclude, on the evidence before it, that video sharing is an essential function of Tumblr in relation to its inclusion on the list, the judge said.

No error, still less "manifest error" has been demonstrated in the designation of Tumblr as a video sharing platform service, the judge concluded.

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