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Tumblr lodged papers with the High Court yesterday. Alamy Stock Photo
Online Safety

Tumblr latest platform to challenge Ireland’s incoming online safety regulations

Ireland’s broadcasting and media regulator’s new rules are becoming a battleground for online platforms.

THE SOCIAL NETWORKING and blogging platform Tumblr has become the latest media website to challenge online safety classifications proposed by Ireland’s broadcasting and media regulator.

Coimisiún na Meán has placed Tumblr, along with nine other major platforms including Instagram and TikTok, on a designated list of video sharing platforms, which is fast becoming a battleground for the regulation of online platforms.

If the commission is successful, it would allow it to hold the 10 platforms to future legally binding rules around online safety – with the proposed laws promising fines that can reach as high as €20 million, or up to 6% of the company’s national turnover.

Last week, The Journal reported on a similar High Court challenge brought by Reddit to overturn Coimisiún na Meán’s attempt to place the website on the designated list.

The company told this publication at the time that the commission’s designations could have “broadly sweeping implications for the internet” if they are implemented.

Other designated services named alongside Reddit and Tumblr include Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and Pinterest.

Court filing

Papers filed with the Irish High Court yesterday show that Tumblr has also now taken a case against Coimisiún na Meán, seeking a judicial review.

Automattic, the San Francisco-based company that owns Tumblr, is registered in Dublin as Aut O’Mattic.

Its accounts for 2022 recorded a turnover of €66.5 million for its Ireland-based operation, which is responsible for parent company Automattic’s operations in the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa.

When contacted, Coimisiún na Meán said it did not wish to comment as the matter was now before the courts.

Tumblr told The Journal that it does not believe it falls under the regulations as described.

A spokesperson for the company said that video is a minor part of the platform and argued that its offering is considerably different to other designated websites.

“We respect the important work of the Commission and its role in online safety, but respectfully disagree that Tumblr is a video platform. Users come to us for lots of great content (memes! fandom!), but video is a very small part of Tumblr,” the Tumblr spokesperson said in a statement.

“We do not believe that we belong in the same category as video platforms like YouTube or TikTok. Our size, content, and the types of risks we guard against on our platforms are very different.”

Last week, the commission designated Reddit, alongside nine other websites and platforms including Facebook and TikTok, as a video-sharing platform service.

Reddit is a news aggregation and community forum website which allows users to submit content including written posts, images and videos.

In response to the designation, a spokesperson told The Journal that “while Reddit encourages thoughtful regulation, we respectfully disagree with the Commission’s designation of Reddit as a video sharing platform service”.

“Reddit is a predominately text-based discussion platform, and we believe that links to videos uploaded to other platforms should not be within scope of the EU legislation at issue, which is targeted at video hosting platforms like YouTube and TikTok.”

The spokesperson said it wanted to “get clarification from the court on questions of interpretation” brought by the designation. 

Founded in 2005 in San Francisco, Reddit opened a Dublin office in recent years and its Ireland forum contains 800,000 members according to the website.

It describes itself as “home to thousands of communities, endless conversation, and authentic human connection”.

Regulations

Coimisiún na Meán said the designation will mean the platforms fall under the Online Safety Code, a draft framework which aims to make a range of online services legally accountable for how they keep their users safe online.

The draft document is currently subject to public consultation. The commission will be responsible for enforcing it in Ireland from next year.

The draft code sets out measures that video-sharing platforms will be obliged to implement, including blocking content that could be seen as harmful such as cyberbullying or information that encourages an eating disorder, self-harm or suicide.

This framework is based on the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022, the EU Digital Services Act and the EU Terrorist Content Online Regulation, the commission said last week.

Coming into enforcement in February, the EU Digital Services Act is introducing the largest number of regulations on social media to date – with many of the companies headquartered in Ireland.

Coimisiún na Meán, which was established in March last year, has the responsibility to enforce the new rules and laws for these companies.

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