Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Questions (24)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

24. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment when the office of the digital safety commissioner will be established; and if he has been lobbied by social media companies that seek to prevent the establishment of such an office. [41229/18]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The Law Reform Commission Report on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety, published in 2016 recommended, inter alia, the establishment of an Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner of Ireland.

As the Deputy is aware, in February the Government did not oppose the passage at second stage of a Private Members Bill by Deputy Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire which seeks to establish an Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner. This Bill, the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill 2017, has been referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment by the Oireachtas.

The Action Plan for Online Safety was launched by the Taoiseach on 11 July and contains 25 actions to be implemented by the six sponsor Departments over the next 12-18 months. These actions cover a range of activities relevant to the proposed Office of the Digital Safety Commissioner, including education and awareness raising, communicating with the public, and oversight and consultative structures. Action 18 of the plan commits the Government to working with the Joint Oireachtas Committee in relation to Deputy Ó Laoghaire's Bill.

In light of this commitment, I will be appearing before the Committee on 25 October 2018 to discuss the Bill and the issues it raises including possible jurisdictional and legal issues.

I have met representatives of online platforms and have had broad ranging discussions on various aspects of online safety with them.

I am aware that a number of the larger online platforms have publicly expressed concerns regarding how the Digital Safety Commissioner Bill 2017 is drafted. For example in their appearance before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment on 1 August 2018, representatives of Facebook gave the committee an overview of the issues which they have identified in the text of the Bill.  However, online platforms have also indicated that they indeed recognise the positive aspects of such an Office.