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Government to put pressure on social media companies over online safety

Minister Richard Bruton said that new legislation will be introduced to regulate social media companies.

Richard Bruton announced the plans at the Fine Gael think-in.
Richard Bruton announced the plans at the Fine Gael think-in.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/

THE GOVERNMENT IS planning to put pressure on social media companies to make the internet safer. 

Minister for Communications Richard Bruton has said that he plans to introduce an independent online safety commissioner, following calls for more action to ensure that children are using the internet safely online. 

The announcement was made at the Fine Gael think-in this week.

The plan will see social media companies forced to operate under codes of conduct, which will be overseen by the office of an online safety commissioner. 

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has previously warned social media companies that the era of self-regulation was over. Bruton echoed these comments over the weekend, adding that “we need this regulatory structure as well as supporting young people to be discerning and have the capacity to be safe on online”. 

 In June, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the government would consult with the UK about its new “porn block” law and how it is working, with a view to perhaps rolling out an age verification system for Ireland.

However, Bruton said that the planned legislation, which will put new obligations on social media companies, will not address online porn. “It’s not the top priority,” Bruton said. 

Carbon tax

Bruton declined to offer more clues as to the shape a carbon tax could take in the next Budget. 

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told reporters that any changes to the carbon tax he introduces in October will be “very different” to other tax changes he’s made in the past – however he said that the exact model is still being considered. 

Bruton said that the government would “be very carefully designing the use of any funds that are generated to protect those who are most exposed, least equipped to deal with it”. 

He refused to be drawn over what level of carbon tax would be introduced in the Budget. 

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A €10 increase in carbon tax has been the figure used since last year. Donohoe included a note in pre-budget submissions last year saying he was “currently minded” to implement a €10 increase on Budget day. 

“The precise choice in year one is not as important as the whole trajectory that we’re trying to achieve. This is a job of communicating and influencing people and empowering people over a decade to 2030,” Bruton said. 

Bruton announced that each minister will issue a new “climate mandate” for every public body under their department, while also committing to a new retrofitting group to develop a wider plan for homes and properties. 

On the national broadband plan, which has faced a series of problems and delays, Bruton said that the government will ensure “due diligence” is carried out but said that it would be delivered as “quickly as possible”. 

 With reporting from Christina Finn

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