On 4 March, I announced my intention to bring forward a new online safety Bill, which will set out how we can ensure children are safe online. There is broad consensus within the House that this is necessary. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Independents have indicated that they are keen for such a Bill to be progressed. The online safety Bill I am proposing would place new requirements on operators to operate an online safety code that would set out the steps they take to keep their users safe online and to include within that code a number of issues such as, at a minimum, a prohibition on harmful content, addressing serious cyberbullying and providing a complaints procedure whereby people can request material be taken down, with timelines for addressing complaints.
A regulator in the form of an online safety commissioner with appropriate powers would oversee the new system. The online safety commissioner would have a number of powers, which may include certifying that each online safety code is fit for purpose or requiring changes to it; requiring regular reports from the industry; reviewing the measures which a service has in place, including its content moderation systems; and requiring the removal from an online platform of content deemed harmful.
The new law will seek to protect Irish residents using online platforms based in Ireland with appropriate provisions and to implement EU law in regard to video-sharing platform services, on-demand audiovisual media services and traditional television on an EU-wide basis.
Although it is impossible to remove every danger from the Internet or from the adaptation of new technology, we need to ensure that parents and children are better equipped, that online platforms take responsibility and that the State can provide regulation and enforcement. I am determined to make progress as quickly as possible and look forward to working with Deputies across the House in that regard. A consultation is currently under way and will close on 15 April. I urge all interested stakeholders to provide their views in order that they can be considered.
The Deputy will be aware that the Taoiseach indicated that he would like to see the Bill enacted by the end of this year and that is the schedule to which I will be working.