Thursday 18 July 2019

'Comprehensive' online safety legislation to be brought forward by the end of the year - Coveney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Tanaiste Simon Coveney Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

Hugh O’Connell

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said the government hopes to bring forward “comprehensive” online safety legislation before the end of the year.

Mr Coveney told TDs that the days of self-regulation in the online industry are over and that states now needed to put in place appropriate regulation to protect children and young people online.

His remarks come a day after the Taoiseach told the Dáil that the government would consider a new UK law that aims to restrict access to pornography until an internet user can verify that they are over 18. It has been reported this morning that the UK government is delaying the rollout of the law over legal issues with the European Commission.

However, Mr Coveney told the Dáil there would be broad consultation across political parties, academics, interest groups and the tech industry with a view to developing “a comprehensive piece of legislation, sponsored by the government” and supported by all parties that would deal with online safety and regulation. “The issue here is we’ve got to get it right,” he said during Leaders’ Questions.

Mr Coveney was responding to demands from Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty for the government to set up a cross-party Oireachtas committee on online digital safety. The Tánaiste signalled that Communications Minister Richard Bruton would consult on new online safety laws and said this would mean a “slightly longer timeframe”.

“I don’t think it’s possible to put in place a comprehensive piece of legislation in place online safety in place before the summer recess,” Mr Coveney later told TDs.

The government is already committed to introducing an online safety bill that would introduce a safety code, prohibit cyber-bullying and ban material that promotes self-harm, bulimia and anorexia.

An Online Safety Commissioner would also be established that would have the power to enforce the online safety code and may in some instances be able to force social media companies to remove or restrict access to content.

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