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€20 million fines for social media giants that breach online safety code will reduce harm risk to children – Carrigy

7th February 2024 - Senator Micheál Carrigy

Fines of up to €20 million for social media companies which fail to comply with the Online Safety Code will reduce the risk of harm and danger to children online, according to Fine Gael Senator Micheal Carrigy.

Senator Carrigy said the Online Safety Code, due to come into effect this year, will put an onus on video sharing platforms, such as Tiktok and Instagram, to be more accountable when it comes to the protection of children and adults online.

Senator Carrigy, Fine Gael Seanad’s media spokesperson, said: “The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 creates a robust regulatory framework for online safety and it empowers the new Online Safety Commissioner, as part of the wider Coimisiún na Meán, to hold designated online services to account through a binding online safety code.

“A draft Online Safety Code was published last year and the views of the public were sought ahead of the final code coming into effect later this year.

“The draft code sets out obligations on video sharing platforms regarding the removal of harmful content, improving parental controls and age verification methods, as well as improved user-friendly procedures for making a complaint.

“The code stipulates that video sharing platforms are required to take effective age verification measures and must report upon the effectiveness of these platforms every three months from January 1st each year.

“Self regulation has not worked so action has to be taken to ensure online safety is not left solely in the hands of social media giants.

“Coimisiún na Meán sets out guidance on appropriate mechanisms including document-based age verification, accompanied by a live selfie to verify the identity of the user; a live selfie together with biometric age estimation; and self-declaration together with age estimation based on service usage patterns and the nature of content created by the user.

“I would welcome social media firms adopting these robust age verification methods to ensure teenagers can prove their age with no way of getting around various security measures. As a member of the Joint Media Committee, I raised the need for all social media companies to introduce a minimum age restriction of 15 years on account holders which I would still support.

“Regarding supervision and enforcement, Coimisiún na Meán can require an online service provider to provide it with information relating to the provider’s compliance with an online safety code.

“An investigation into a breach of the code will be carried out and the company can make a submission when presented with the findings. Coimisiún na Meán also has powers to impose a financial sanction on a service provider – who is not an individual – of €20 million or 10% of a company’s turnover in the previous year.

“We have long been warned of the dangers that children are exposed to online through their ever-increasing use of smart devices. I truly believe the implementation of this code, when finalised, will be a progressive move in the fight against the abuse – in all its guises – of children online,” Senator Carrigy said.

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