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Monday 24 July 2017

Plan to appoint a digital watchdog bogged down in 'complex' legal issues

Communications Minister Denis Naughten
Communications Minister Denis Naughten
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

There is no timeline to appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner with powers to compel social media sites to quickly remove harmful, offensive or abusive content.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten said while he was anxious to create an internet watchdog, it was a "complex" area which would require legislation and there was "no timeline" for when a person would be appointed.

A key recommendation from the Law Reform Commission last year was to give the commissioner powers to force social media sites to remove harmful content.

In an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Naughten said creation of a digital safety watchdog was the "way to go", and that he had talks with Children's Minister Katherine Zappone and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

"We have to agree the approach to be taken among the three ministers, and draft legislation. It's going to take time. I don't have a timeline."

He said the industry faced a "credibility issue" among advertisers unless it was moderating dangerous content.

"We've made our position crystal clear to the industry. They have a challenge and we have a concern. We are going to progress legislation in this area, but they also have a responsibility to address genuine concerns that are made," Mr Naughten said.

Earlier this year, a US man killed an elderly man in Ohio before posting a video of the murder online, and in Thailand a man filmed himself killing his 11-month-old daughter, and then taking his own life, on Facebook Live.

Leaked documents claim that Facebook instructs its moderators to only remove certain threats of violence.

Irish Independent

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