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Social media networks believe slow adoption of law could delay Irish online safety commissioner until 2024


Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Photo credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Ireland’s online safety commissioner will not fully be in place until 2024, social media networks believe.

The delay could infuriate other EU countries, who are already angry at Ireland for what they see as being too lax in its approach to regulating Irish-based tech giants.

In a formal submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Media’s consultation on the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (OSMR), Facebook says it does not expect the State to have the watchdog up and running for three years.

This is because of the slow passage of the bill through the Oireachtas and work yet to be done in selecting the Commission and defining the scope of its powers.

Facebook, which has its European headquarters in Dublin for Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp, is suggesting that some of the Safety Commissioner’s powers be temporarily assigned to another body, such as the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, to speed up the regulatory approach.

Sources in Google, which is also based in Dublin, and which also will be subject to the new regulator, say they also see a lengthy “gap” in setting up the new body.

A spokesperson for TikTok, which recently placed its European regulatory headquarters here, said that the platform had no comment to make on the potential delay.

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A spokesperson for the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, who is overseeing the introduction of the safety commissioner and who published the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill last December, declined to answer questions on the matter.

“Our current estimate for the passage of the OSMR Bill is that it will not pass before March 2022,” said Facebook’s submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Media. “This means that the establishment of the Media Commission, appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner and the full implementation of the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive is unlikely to take effect until late 2023 or early 2024.”

The social media giant’s head of public policy, Dualta Ó’Broin, told the committee that Facebook “strongly” supports the appointment of a Safety Commissioner and the application of the EU-based Audiovisual Media Services Directive. However, he said that Ireland’s delay in setting up the regulator could result in Ireland’s position as Europe’s ‘one stop shop’ regulatory position over companies such as Facebook and Google being challenged.

Facebook also submitted examples of conflicts between the Government’s domestic online safety plans and those in EU legislation, particularly the upcoming Digital Services Act.