Ireland Online Safety Bill First Step In Updating Digital Regulations

January 14, 2022
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Ireland’s government is publishing its long-awaited Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, saying it will be the first in a series of regulatory updates including its forthcoming gambling bill to update the country’s laws for a digital age.

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Ireland’s government is publishing its long-awaited Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, saying it will be the first in a series of regulatory updates including its forthcoming gambling bill to update the country’s laws for a digital age.

Catherine Martin TD, minister for tourism, culture, arts, gaeltacht, sport and media, announced on Wednesday (January 12) she had received government approval to commence recruitment of an online safety commissioner, who will act as a regulator for the sector and have the ability to enforce fines for non-compliance.

Additionally, the bill will also establish a media commission, which will include the safety commissioner, responsible for overseeing updated regulations for broadcasting and video-on-demand services, as well as upholding the regulatory framework of the bill.

“The commission will form a vital part of a new network of digital regulators both across the EU and in Ireland, including the Data Protection Commission and the proposed gambling regulator,” Martin said.

Under the proposed gambling legislation, a new gambling authority will be operational by 2024 and have the power to fine non-compliant operators for licence breaches.

In November 2021, the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media released a pre-legislative scrutiny report on the online safety bill, which included 33 key recommendations.

One suggestion was to introduce a ban on advertising to children online, “including, at the very minimum, advertisements of junk food, alcohol, high fat/salt/sugar (HFSS) foods, and gambling”.

Professor Conor O’Mahony, Faculty of Law, University College Cork, highlighted in the report the omission of “financial harm” from the bill, where it may be the case that children are harmed through exposure to gambling and called for it to be addressed in a future version.

The majority of the 33 recommendations in the report are addressed in the bill, according to Martin; however, the final version had not been made public at the time of writing.

“There are a number of recommendations, including those regarding the provision of an individual complaints mechanism for harmful online content, that require further consideration and which I intend to address through potential amendments to the bill at Committee Stage,” Martin said.

An expert group will be established soon to report to Martin within 90 days with another set of recommendations, the minister said.

Separately, Premier Lotteries Ireland, the operator of the country’s National Lottery, has confirmed the largest ever Lotto Jackpot of €19m is guaranteed to be won on January 15.

The current Lotto jackpot has been rolling over since Wednesday June 9, 2021 and has remained capped at €19.06m since Saturday October 2, forcing politicians to wade in on the matter.

“Under the new Lotto game rules, the Lotto jackpot will remain capped for a maximum of five draws and if there is no outright jackpot winner on the fifth draw at cap, the entire jackpot fund flows down to the next winning prize tier,” according to Premier Lotteries Ireland.

The plan for a must-win draw was initially rejected recently by Carol Boate, the regulator of the Irish National Lottery.

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