Fine Gael TD for Dublin Fingal and Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs, Alan Farrell has said the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner will be an important advancement in terms of protecting our younger citizens online and builds upon the recommendations of the Committee’s Report on Cyber-Safety.
“I am pleased with confirmation from my Fine Gael colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, Richard Bruton TD that the Government will introduce ground-breaking legislation to establish the office of an Online Safety Commissioner, and provide for the regulation of social media.
“The Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs recommended to Government that a designated office of a Digital or Online Safety Commissioner should be established as part of a strategy to protect our children online. I am delighted that this recommendation is now being made a reality by Government.
“The fact is there is currently an insufficient level of regulation of social media, and of protection for younger members of our society against online dangers.
Deputy Farrell continued: “The Online Safety Bill which will be introduced by Government also aims to ensure operators would maintain an Online Safety Code, which must undergo approval by the Online Safety Commissioner.
“The requirement for an Online Safety Code to be put in place will significantly improve online safety for all internet users, and particularly children and young people.
“The use of an Online Safety Code will make great strides in tackling cyber-bullying and ensuring harmful content is removed from social media in a timely manner by enhancing the complaints procedures which will be available to users.
“This will be further strengthened by the provision of powers to the Online Safety Commissioner to ensure companies remain compliant with both the legislation and their safety codes. Should they fail to be compliant, the new Commissioner will be able impose fines, or pursue injunctions or prosecutions.
“As legislators, we have a duty to act to protect our children and younger citizens from the dangers they may face online. I believe the Online Safety Bill announced by Minister Bruton will make great strides in achieving this goal.
“This Bill will be brought forward to the Oireachtas following a six-week consultation period. I would appeal to all young people, parents, teachers, and indeed, all online-users, to engage with this consultation period as we work to increase protection for young people on social media and online in general.
“Failure to implement substantial online protections for citizens and to work to stop the proliferation of harmful content online would be tantamount to failing all of our children. I am pleased that the Government is taking significant action in this regard.”