Govt must outline timeline for establishment of Digital Safety Commissioner – Brendan Smith

Digital Safety Commissioner

Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Brendan Smith has expressed disappointment with the Communications Minister for failing to give a clear timeline for the establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner.

Despite government commentary on tackling online abuse and harmful content, it has still not put any measures in place to set up a Digital Safety Commissioner.

Deputy Smith explained, “Fianna Fáil has been highlighting the dangers of graphic online content, bullying and targeting and has gone as far as introducing legislation to regulate online and social media advertising, but the government is simply not stepping up to the mark.

“The problems were further highlighted last week in Channel 4’s Dispatches programme, which exposed Facebook’s failure, and in some cases refusal, to remove dangerous, abusive and inappropriate content from the platform.  The contents of this programme were truly shocking.  Far from its claims that it has policies to remove abusive and dangerous content, this undercover probe revealed that the majority of flagged content was not removed, and instead the social media giant leaves unacceptable and graphic content – including photos and videos of child abuse and hate speech – on its platform to protect its own profits.

“My party has been fully supportive of the recommendation by the Law Reform Commission for the establishment of a Digital Safety Commissioner.  This office would deal with issues relating to online bullying and defamation as well as promoting safe online behaviour.  Despite this recommendation and the widespread support for the move, the government continues to sit on its hands.

“Earlier this month, I asked the Communications Minister to outline what progress had been made in relation to the appointment of a Digital Safety Commissioner and when he expects an appointment to be made.  His answer failed to out outline any timeline, which is most disappointing.

“This office is essential, particularly in light of the disturbing practices unveiled in the Dispatches programme.  It is no longer acceptable to allow internet giants to “regulate” themselves, in pursuit of profit. We need to put the public’s interest first and the government cannot continue to put this issue on the backburner.”