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Internet companies who break online safety rules could be blocked in Ireland under new law

The proposed online safety legislation is being launched by the Government today.

Image: Dominic Lipinski via PA Images

INTERNET COMPANIES WHO fail to comply with new online safety rules could be blocked in Ireland in future, according to draft legislation set to be published by the Government today.

The Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill would also see the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner as part of a new Media Commission, which would replace the Broadcast Authority of Ireland and regulate the audiovisual sector.

As part of the proposed new laws, online services would be legally obliged to comply with online safety codes aimed at keeping users safe online.

Companies that do not comply with these codes could be issued with compliance notices and warnings by the new commissioner, who would also be able to issue sanctions – including fines and blockages – if companies do not address outstanding issues.

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton said the proposed legislation was part of a “new era of accountability”.

“It sets out a clear expectation for online services,” he said.

“They will have to comply with binding online safety codes made by an Online Safety Commissioner, who will have significant powers to sanction companies for non-compliance.”

It follows an announcement by the government in May of proposals to regulate content online, particularly content that promoted cyber bullying, self-harm or suicide, and prolonged nutritional deprivation.

The legislation would also aim to ensure that online services had effective complaints procedures, whereby people could request that material is taken down.

Advertising, sponsorship and product placement would also have to uphold minimum standards and not be harmful, while the new commissioner would also power to ask how companies were preventing risks of harmful content on their platforms.

“We are putting in place a robust framework to ensure, as best we can, that all of us, but especially our children, are protected from harmful content online,” Bruton added.

“While it would be impossible to protect people from every danger, this new law will ensure the era of self-regulation is over and that online companies are subject to much stricter standards and sanctions.”

The government has referred the scheme of the proposed laws to the Attorney General, while the Bill will also be considered by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment.

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