PRESS RELEASE: Individual complaints mechanism needed to protect children and young people online

Published date: 
12 Jul 2021

PRESS RELEASE

Individual complaints mechanism needed to protect children and young people online

The new Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill presents an opportunity for Government to make the internet a safer and more positive place for children and young people. That’s according to the Children’s Rights Alliance who today (13.07.21) launched their new online safety campaign at a virtual event.

Bringing together 15 Alliance members with expertise in online safety, digital rights and youth participation, the campaign seeks the appointment of a well-resourced Online Safety Commissioner with an independent individual complaints mechanism for when online platforms fail to adequately or appropriately deal with an individual’s complaint.

Launching the new campaign, Tanya Ward, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance said: “It’s simply not good enough that Government is contemplating putting an Online Safety Commissioner in place with no teeth to help individual children and young people who are up against big tech. These companies are making massive profits and failing to invest in online safety measures. It’s time to stand up for children and young people and actually put an Online Safety Commissioner in place that has the power to take on and resolve individual complaints from children and young people.

We know children and families can have serious trouble resolving issues and complaints with social media platforms. To solve this, we want to see an Online Safety Commissioner that plays a central role in setting a high bar for safety and is sufficiently resourced to act when platforms and companies fall below that threshold.

Children and young people have a right to an effective remedy and that is at the centre of what we are proposing with an individual complaints mechanism. When an online platform fails to respond to a complaint in a timely way or if a person is unsatisfied with the response, there needs to be an avenue for them so they are not left in the dark about what to do next. With an individual complaints mechanism, they can raise a complaint with the Online Safety Commissioner who has the power to investigate the complaint and when necessary, compel the platform to remove the content or take other appropriate actions.”

Panel Discussion
The Children’s Rights Alliance hosted a virtual event this morning to mark the launch of the campaign, The 1,2,3 of Online Safety. Chaired by children’s rights campaigner and former Senator Jillian van Turnhout, the event heard from an expert panel of speakers which included Julie Ahern, Legal and Policy Manager at the Children’s Rights Alliance Peter Tyndall, Ombudsman and Information Commissioner for Ireland, Noeline Blackwell, CEO of Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, and Dr Karen McAuley, Head of Policy at the Ombudsman for Children’s Office.

The campaign places the rights of children and young people, and the issues they experience online, front and centre. Noeline Blackwell of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre stated that, “Most young people simply want hurtful and harmful content removed and to move on with their lives. We have heard from young people who have asked social media platforms to remove harmful content to no avail. They found it a very distressing experience and it compounded the detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

Dr Karen McAuley of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office added, “The General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill is an important opportunity to strengthen the protection of children from harmful online content and it is vital we get the fundamentals right. We are concerned that the current proposals may not be sufficient to uphold children’s right to an effective remedy. There is currently no provision for the Media Commission to deal with individual complaints, including complaints from children themselves, in relation to how online services deal with harmful online content and we see that as a significant gap.”

Speaking about the opportunities presented by the OSMR Bill and the key concerns for children and young people, Mr Tyndall said: “My experience as Ombudsman reminds me just how important independent, individual mechanisms are for people who have a complaint about a body or agency that they believe has not treated them fairly. The purpose of my Office, and I imagine it will be similar for a newly established Online Safety Commissioners Office, is ultimately to help people find a resolution when their voices are not being heard by the body who has made a decision that is not in line with fair procedures. Without an independent, individual mechanism my concern would be that this Bill will not provide an effective mechanism for individuals to challenge decisions and receive an appropriate remedy.”

ENDS

Contact: Ciarán Garrett / Ciara Murphy, Alice PR & Events, Tel: 087-7158912 / 087-9626231, Email: media@alicepr.com.

 

About the #123OnlineSafety Campaign
The new national campaign on online safety is supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland via The RTÉ does Comic Relief Fund and co-ordinated by the Children’s Rights Alliance. Fifteen Children’s Rights Alliance member organisations are leading in online safety, digital rights and youth participation and pushing for critical changes in the area. Members include Alcohol Action Ireland, Barretstown, Barnardos, 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.

About the Children’s Rights Alliance
Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 120 members working together to make Ireland one of the best places in the world to be a child. Further information is available at: www.childrensrights.ie or on Twitter, @ChildRightsIRL. #123OnlineSafety