Press Release: ‘Media Committee Report a critical voice in determining whether the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will fulfil its potential says Children’s Rights Alliance’

Published date: 
2 Nov 2021

Press Release

‘Media Committee Report a critical voice in determining whether the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will fulfil its potential says Children’s Rights Alliance’

 

Today (02.11.2021) the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media published its Report with recommendations on the General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (OSMR Bill). The publication follows extensive pre-legislative scrutiny including presentations by the Children’s Rights Alliance and its members CyberSafeKids and the ISPCC. Responding to today’s publication, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, Tanya Ward stated: “We warmly welcome the publication of the Media Committee’s Report today which sets out clear recommendations to Government that would help position the OSMR Bill as the gamechanger it can be - and needs to be - when it comes to regulating big tech and social media platforms.”

Individual Complaints Mechanism
The Children’s Rights Alliance has united with 16 of its members for the 1,2,3 Online Safety Campaign, with support from the Community Foundation for Ireland’s RTE Comic Relief Fund. The campaign has been calling for critical changes to the General Scheme of the OSMR Bill including the establishment of an Online Safety Commissioner and an individual complaints mechanism.

“We have serious concerns with the current version of the Bill as it stands as what is currently being proposed is a regulator that suits corporations not citizens. Individuals will have no way to resolve an issue or a complaint when something goes wrong other than pinning their hopes on how the platforms wish to deal with it. We are delighted to see the Committee recommending an individual complaints mechanism and emphasising that it should be responsive to the needs of children, including effective takedown procedures,” said Tanya Ward.

“We are all too familiar with the impact of harmful content and negative engagement with online platforms on children and young people and for too long the responsibility to tackle this has been on the child, on the parent, on the teacher. For weeks, we have heard story after story detailing allegations of how one of the biggest tech companies places commercial gains above all else, even when that is the health and wellbeing of children using their services. Government needs to ask what responsibility online services and platforms themselves have to create a better online world?"

"The Oireachtas Committee also understands the importance of providing real remedies to children, young people and families when they have experienced harm or abuse online. Ordinary people need some protection when they are up against big tech.

The Report clearly shows the chorus of champions for an individual complaints mechanism including the UN Special Rapporteur for Child Protection, the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, the DCU Anti Bullying Research and Resource Centre, as well as 16 Children’s Rights Alliance members.

Our recent polling research revealed that there is also undeniable public support for an individual complaints mechanism accessible to members of the public. It begs the question of why the draft legislation does not include this currently, when it is primarily big tech opposing it,” continuned Tanya Ward.

Online Safety Commissioner
“We welcome the Committee’s recommendation to explicitly name the position of the Online Safety Commissioner in law and emphasise the need to sufficiently resource the office to ensure the Commissioner can effectively carry out their role. The Online Safety Commissioner cannot exist in name only. Ireland is on the cusp of an international movement to regulate big tech and social media companies for the first time. If the Government is serious about its commitment to make the online world a safer space for children and young people, the Online Safety Commissioner must be equipped and supported to take action when services do not comply with safety standards,” stated Tanya Ward.

Education
"Young people are demanding more from Government when it comes to guaranteeing their safety and wellbeing online and are calling for more consistency and better-quality education programmes on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. This is an area where they may be more up to speed than their parents in terms of using online platforms so it is important that they are given the right toolkit to navigate the digital world and learn about their rights online in an effective and engaging way. Every child should be provided with the know-how in a consistent way through the education system. We are delighted to see the Media Committee recommend that the new Online Safety Commissioner be given a regulatory role in online safety education. Digital literacy and online safety should be core components of the national curriculum but in the short-term, having oversight on the quality of programmes and providers engaging with young people is of paramount importance,” said Tanya Ward.

“The recommendations put forward by the Committee today are welcome by those of us working with, and on behalf of, children, young people and their families. They are a critical voice and today’s Report addresses many of the concerns we have raised throughout the pre-legislative process on this Bill. It is now up to Government to consider these amendments and determine just how effective the OSMR Bill will truly be,” concluded Tanya Ward.

ENDS

Contact: Emma Archbold Children’s Rights Alliance, Tel: 01-662 9400 / 0879971410, Email: emma.archbold@childrensrights.ie

Notes to Editor:

  • Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, Children’s Rights Alliance is available for interview.
  • Spokespeople from each organisation are available for interview upon request.
  • Read the campaign submission on General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill here.
  • The #123OnlineSafety national campaign is co-ordinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance which sees 16 member organisations leading in online safety, digital rights and youth participation unite to push for critical changes in the area. Members include Alcohol Action Ireland, Barretstown, Barnardos, BeLonG To, CyberSafeKids, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Foróige, Irish Heart Foundation, ISPCC, National Youth Council of Ireland, One in Four, Psychological Society of Ireland, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Scouting Ireland, SpunOut.ie and Young Social Innovators.
  • The campaign is supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland via The RTÉ does Comic Relief Fund #RTEComicRelief

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