Tuesday 16 July 2019

Google backs plan for BAI to act as online content watchdog for Europe

Google has backed a Department of Communications proposal that the BAI play a key role in regulating online video content across Europe
Google has backed a Department of Communications proposal that the BAI play a key role in regulating online video content across Europe
Facebook will be among the tech giants monitored
Richard Bruton. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

Google, the owner of YouTube, has endorsed proposals that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) become the regulator for online video content across Europe.

As reported in the Sunday Independent at the weekend, Ireland will have a key role in regulating online video content across Europe as most of the large social media giants are based here. The BAI has set out its vision for regulation as an enlarged media commissioner, although some commentators have questioned its suitability for the immense task.

Google and a number of other organisations have backed a Department of Communications proposal that the BAI take over this role, as well as that of the Online Safety Commissioner, an Irish initiative.

READ MORE: First social media controls revealed: Irish watchdog to police content across EU 

Said Google: “In order to ensure consistency among the different strands, it would be sensible for Ireland to follow the examples of other Member States and appoint the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland as the entity responsible for the four strands. …in restructuring the BAI it would be appropriate to ensure that its governance structures reflect its new responsibilities, and the range of technology and industry sectors it will be regulating and with which it will interact."

The Department has proposed two potential options for the regulator in its consultation. The first option is restructuring the BAI as a media commission responsible for all online content rules. The second calls for two regulatory bodies - which would be a restructured BAI and another regulator with responsible for video-sharing platform services (VSPs), such as YouTube.

In its response, Facebook said: “Regulation should be under the one roof to ensure consistency of application and regulatory predictability. Indeed, with the increasing convergence of services and technology it is essential to have the regulatory regimes for VSPS, ODAVMS (on demand) and linear services managed by a single body that understands the landscape and can provide a unified view.

“We recognise the need for a regulator to have the ability to issue sanctions, but sanctions should only be applied if the platform consistently and systematically fails to comply with valid takedown orders by a regulator.”

We will not accept a situation whereby online companies are permitted to regulate themselves. That day is gone. We need better controls in place. Minister for Communications Richard Bruton

RTE’s submission also backs a single regulator overseeing four stands outlined in the consultation – the Online Safety Commissioner for Ireland; the regulation of VSPs such as YouTube; regulation of on-demand services such as the RTE Player; and traditional TV.

“The present BAI model of specific committees reporting to the board rather than a multi-person commission with a commissioner for each different sector would, in RTÉ’s view, ensure a more consistent approach to issues of online safety and harm, as well as ensuring consistent standards with regard to online content.

"A restructured BAI could, as a media commission, also regulate content standards in the context of linear and on-demand platforms at specific Committee level.”

Screen Ireland, formerly the Film Board, said: “The BAI should be restructured as a Media Commission responsible for all the four strands, referred to in the consultation document.”

Screen Ireland already has a telecommunications regulator in Comreg, and to set up two further regulators in a small country seems to be excessive and unnecessary. The role of the BAI as a full-service regulator should be enhanced, protected and promoted.”

READ MORE: Adrian Weckler: 'TV watchdog faces uphill struggle to rein in web giants'

Independent News and Media, publisher of Independent.ie, have recommended that two regulatory bodies be charged with overseeing online content.

There are 84 submissions, many coming from individuals. Views vary, from those suggesting that no regulation should be implemented to specific concerns raised by organisations such as the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Irish Heart Foundation.

The Government will ultimately make the decision.

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton said he would like to make it clear “that while we are listening to all points of view, we will not accept a situation whereby online companies are permitted to regulate themselves. That day is gone. We need better controls in place. I will bring draft heads of bill to Government once all matters have been considered”.

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