Devoted Media Commissioner will prioritise complaints about social media content material regarding kids

A dedicated Media Commissioner will prioritize individual complaints about online content in relation to children.

n expert group today gave the green light for an individual complaints body to be set up which will deal with complaints from members of the public about harmful content on social media for the first time.

People will first have to go to the social platform in question and exhaust all avenues in relation to their complaint.

They will then be able to make a complaint to the Media Commission, which will focus at first on complaints relating to children.

“Any such mechanism does not take away the responsibility of social media services to operate robust and effective processes for handling complaints,” said Culture Minister Catherine Martin.

She said additional funding will be provided to the Commission so the complaints mechanism can be set up.

Between 100 to 300 people will be employed in the individual complaints body.

It is unclear how much the total cost of the Commission will be to the taxpayer.

Ms Martin said when complaints are upheld the content will have to be removed under a “content limitation order”. If this is not done by the social media companies, it could be seen as a breach of the law.

Social media companies will have to abide by a series of rules, or “binding online safety codes”, which will be drawn up by the Commission at first.

Social media companies will then have to sign up to this safety code.

If they do not follow this safety code, the State will be able to fine companies 10pc of their annual turnover or €10m, whichever is higher.

Harmful content, including in relation to cyberbullying, self-harm, suicide or the promotion of eating disorders, will be banned.

Chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward, said: “The publication of the expert group report recommending the introduction of an individual complaints mechanism is a landmark change in how we protect children and young people online.

“The introduction of an individual complaints mechanism to the Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill will establish a vital safety net for children and young people and would place a responsibility on platforms to make their services a safer space for children.

“Over the past decade, big tech, online and media companies have rapidly revolutionized their services and in Ireland and our laws have failed to keep pace. Now, the Government have a real opportunity to revolutionize how these platforms serve the best interests of the people that use them.

“Ireland can be at the forefront of the global movement to regulate big tech that looks to hold online services accountable but in order to do so, our laws must be ambitious. They need to set a high standard of safety, redress, accountability and transparency for all platforms that wish to operate here and hold them accountable when they fail to meet that standard,” she added.

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