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Communications Minister announces new framework for the oversight of internet content

• Expert Group report on Internet Content Governance published

• 30 recommendations from Group to be followed up by a team from 5 Government Departments.

• “New architecture will ensure important issues such as cyber-bullying and content blocking don’t fall between the cracks” Rabbitte

The Minister for Communications Energy & Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, T.D. today published the Report of the Internet Content Governance Advisory (ICGA) Group. He said: “I am delighted to launch this report. When I formed the ICGA Group in December last year, I set them the challenging target of reporting to me by the end of May. They not only met this deadline but produced a high quality, comprehensive and insightful report with practical recommendations.”

The Minister had asked the expert group to consider a number of issues arising for society, and in particular for children and young people, from the dramatic growth in internet use over the last decade, and particularly since the advent of affordable internet connected mobile devices. They were asked to deal with the issues of bullying and harassment online and issues around age inappropriate viewing of content.

The Minister reflected today on the wide ranging recommendations of the report which include changes to institutional, legislative and administrative governance arrangements and praised the Group’s proactive and consultative approach in preparing the report:

“My thanks go to the Group’s Chairperson Dr Brian O’Neill who deftly steered the work of the Group and indeed to all the Group members who freely donated their time and expertise to this important contribution to policy formation on internet content governance in this country.”

The Minister also announced the formation of an implementation group chaired by his Department and comprising representatives of the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Education and Skills, Justice and Equality, and Health, who will agree on and oversee the implementation of the ICGA Group recommendations. The Minister state that “I am encouraged by the response of my Cabinet colleagues to the proposals contained within this report, and I am confident that we will have comprehensive set of actions agreed on this very soon.” It is anticipated that this implementation group will conclude their work within 4 months.

He noted that while implementation would be complex, he was confident that, collectively, the Departments would be able to deliver real and worthwhile changes to the existing systems and legislation used to deal with online content.

A copy of the ICGA group report can be downloaded here


Notes for Editors

Minister Rabbitte formed the Internet Content Governance Advisory Group in December 2013 to provide him with expert, independent advice in forming legislative, policy and regulatory recommendations to Government on a range of internet content governance issues for which responsibility is spread across a number of Government Departments.

The Group conducted a public consultation on the emerging issues arising from widespread access to online content and its impact on society as a whole, taking particular account of issues of online safety arising from children and young people’s use of the Internet. This consultation ran between 28th January and 18th March 2014 and 59 responses were received during this period from citizens, industry, not for profit organisations and representative groups. The Group then used these responses to inform their policy recommendations. The Group also met with a number of the major international companies based in Ireland who operate in this space. These submissions will be published shortly.

The Group submitted their report to the Minister on 30th May. The Group’s key recommendations can be summarised as:

1. Institutional/Structural Recommendations

• A revised role for the Office for Internet Safety (OiS)

• Expand and reconfigure the Internet Safety Advisory Committee as the National Council for Child Internet Safety.

• Enhance and resource the Safer Internet Ireland project, currently co-financed by the European Commission, to act as the Safer Internet Ireland Centre (SIIC).

2. Legislative Measures

• Amend the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007 to include ‘electronic communications’ within the definition of measures dealing with the ‘sending of messages which are grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing’.

• Establish a review of the suitability of current discovery and disclosure rules of court to ensure that these processes are suitable for cases involving online media.

3. Administrative/Policy Questions

• That the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources be formally charged with coordinating Internet content policy at government level in addition to its extant roles in dealing with these issues at an international level.

• Responsibility for the governance of online media on demand in accordance with the provisions of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive should be assigned to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

• An inter-agency working group should be established by the Department of Education and Skills in conjunction with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment to identify appropriate mechanisms to ensure that Internet safety and digital literacy skills are taught as a core element of the curriculum at both primary and post-primary levels.

• Internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) should be encouraged to include parental control products and services as part of their consumer offering.

• An awareness-raising campaign to encourage parents to make more use of the array of parental controls should be developed as a collaborative initiative of National Parent Councils, youth representative organisations, children’s charities and industry.

• A ‘family-friendly’ logo to designate the use of filtering of adult or other age-inappropriate content for public Wi-Fi access points should be developed.

• Awareness-raising by relevant agencies and by industry should provide authoritative guidance and support targeted at specific groups of users likely to access potentially harmful content.

Additional details on the Group’s membership and terms of reference is available at: