Major reforms will protect our children online

-   Fine Gael Press Office

Protecting children on the internet and making online harassment a criminal offence is a priority for Fine Gael.

A Fine Gael Government will enact the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill. This landmark legislation – which will be one of the first of its kind in Europe – will make online companies responsible for upholding strict standards, and protect children online.

The legislation will also establish an Online Safety Commissioner, who will be responsible for drawing up Online Safety Codes.

The codes will include protections to combat cyber bullying material and content which promotes eating disorders, self-harm and suicide. They will also ensure online advertising is not harmful and ensure that companies operate effective takedown measures.

Speaking today, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:

“Fine Gael wants to ensure that everyone, especially children, can stay safe online. The digital world brings immense opportunity and has transformed how we work, learn and socialise – but we must protect ourselves against the risks that it can bring. We know it’s an issue that parents are particularly concerned about – we will put safeguards in place to put their minds at ease.

“Ireland will be the first country to establish such wide-ranging measures to regulate digital companies. The new Digital Safety Commissioner will end the era of self-regulation and will have robust powers. It will apply financial penalties on social media companies who breach the codes, compel companies to act or, if necessary, block an offending online service.

“The Commissioner, which will be part of a new Media Commission, will replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. We will also overhaul the way in which we tackle online harassment and a range of other offences – the use of social media and messaging apps has presented a unique challenge and Fine Gael will ensure our laws are modernised to meet this challenge.”

Richard Bruton, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, said,

“Fine Gael will reform the criminal law and will prioritise enacting a new law to tackle harassment and harmful communications, such as revenge pornography and taking and distributing intimate images without consent.

“The legislation will also tackle harassment, including all forms of communication, such as online or digital communications or communications about another person.

“In addition to this we are creating additional offences, including:

  • A specific offence of stalking
  • A new offence to make ‘upskirting’ clearly illegal and punishable
  • The expansion of the existing offence of sending threatening or indecent messages to apply to all threatening, false indecent and obscene messages using any form of online communications.”

General Election Candidate in Dublin West, Emer Currie, said,

“Fine Gael will also ensure social media influencers are properly regulated, recognising their increasing power with consumers.

“We will require the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) to take a more active enforcement role and ensure that there is full disclosure in relation to partnerships, sponsorships and other advertising relationships between media influencers and brands.

“Social media influencers are a key part of the marketing landscape now and we must ensure that they meet the same standards we expect elsewhere.”

ENDS

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