Online services failing to protect children and the wider population from exposure to harmful content could face fines up to €20 million under new legislation.
Media Minister Catherine Martin has set out new additions to a law proposed for online safety and media regulation, which could see major social media companies who fail to take action face these fines.
Services are required under the legislation to implement measures to protect from exposure to harmful content on the internet, including cyberbullying and certain material promoting eating disorders, self-harm or suicide.
Under the new legislation, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is to be scrapped and replaced with a new Media Commission.
“Among other things, the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will introduce a fair, proportionate regulatory framework for online safety, encompassing the regulation of certain online services, including social media companies,” Minister Martin said.
This includes a number of major global companies such as Apple, YouTube and Facebook
“Under the regulatory framework for online safety, regulated online services will be required to implement measures to protect children and the wider population from exposure to various categories of potentially harmful online content.”
Additional online safety provisions include potential criminal liability for senior management of online services for non-compliance under the regulatory framework for online safety.
Online services could face “administrative financial sanctions” for non-compliance, subject to High Court approval with an upper limit of €20 million or 10 per cent of turnover - whichever is higher.
“In some circumstances, the Media Commission will have a role in regulating certain companies with European Headquarters established in Ireland on a pan-EU basis,” Minister Martin said.
“This includes a number of major global companies such as Apple, YouTube and Facebook. For this reason, potential financial sanctions must act as a suitable deterrent and be sufficient to prevent any companies of this scale gaining an economic benefit as a result of non-compliance.”
The legislation has also been updated with regard to how television broadcasting services and video on-demand services are regulated, which “will ensure a greater regulatory alignment of television and video on-demand services such as RTÉ Player, Apple TV and the film section of the Google Play Store.”
The legislation also proposes funding the regulatory activities of the new Media Commission through the introduction of industry levies.
The introduction of a content production levy on audio-visual media services established in Ireland, and on those established in other EU member states but targeting audiences in Ireland, is also proposed subject to research on its viability.
“A content production levy has the potential to support the production of quality Irish content,” Minister Martin said.
“However, prior to its introduction research would be undertaken to demonstrate that the levy would be of sufficient benefit and provide meaningful support to the production of Irish content.”