Wednesday 22 May 2019

Naughten rows back on plans for digital watchdog

Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Tom Burke
Communications Minister Denis Naughten. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Communications Minister Denis Naughten has rowed back on plans to appoint a digital safety watchdog this year, blaming "complexities" in the legislation.

The failure of the Government to commit to a timeline for appointing a Digital Safety Commissioner (DSC) in its new Action Plan for Online Safety led to criticism from the Opposition.

The new office would have powers to get tech companies to remove illegal content and to promote online safety through education and co-ordinating government activities.

The action plan has 25 measures, including some to help teachers and parents as well as a publicity campaign targeting children called 'Be Safe Online'.

But Labour's Seán Sherlock said the appointment of a DSC should have been "front and centre of any proposals" and said the action plans was a "missed opportunity".

Under the plan, the Government is to work with an Oireachtas committee to develop the law allowing for the creation of a DSC. But it offers no timeline for when a DSC will be appointed. Mr Naughten suggested in January that a commissioner would be appointed this year.

At the launch of the action plan yesterday, he refused to confirm if this would happen, saying there were "complexities" in the legislation.

The plan says there are "jurisdictional and other legal issues" in relation to the DSC that require greater scrutiny.

Mr Naughten said the Government was proceeding with the educational role of the DSC "immediately" so the ground work would be in place for the office when it was set up.

Irish Independent

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