5th December 2023
New regulatory framework will offer greater protection to individuals and society at large
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD, and Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD, have welcomed the publication today of the Digital Services Bill 2023, which will provide for the full implementation in Ireland of the EU Regulation on a Single Market for Digital Services.
The EU Digital Services Regulation, more commonly referred to as the EU Digital Services Act, establishes a pioneering regulatory framework to protect EU users of digital services and their fundamental rights online. It aims to rebalance the responsibilities of users, online platforms, and public authorities, placing citizens at the centre. The Regulation marks a sea-change in the EU’s ability to protect society from illegal and harmful online content and disinformation.
Minister Coveney said that,
“I very much welcome the publication of the Digital Services Bill. The events of recent weeks, in Ireland and abroad, have demonstrated the risks posed by illegal and harmful online content and the spread of disinformation. They have underscored the need for a comprehensive and effective regulatory framework to protect individuals as well as society at large. This Bill, once enacted, will be an indispensable component of that EU-wide framework.
“As a clear demonstration of the Government’s commitment to the regulation of online platforms, €2.7 million was allocated in 2023 to specifically support the establishment of the Digital Services function within Coimisiún na Meán, in preparation for this legislation. Budget 2024 allocates a further €6 million to complete preparations and capacity building for the Digital Services function and to support initial operations.”
Minister Calleary said that,
“The Digital Services Bill will ensure that the rights and protections provided for in the EU Digital Services Regulation will be rigorously asserted in Ireland, for the benefit of Irish users of digital services.
“I was pleased to announce earlier this year, together with the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, the appointment of the Digital Services Commissioner in Coimisiún na Meán. The publication of this Bill marks another important step in preparing for full implementation of EU Regulation in Ireland from 17 February 2024.
“The Bill is tightly integrated with the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022. This will ensure that the new functions and responsibilities for Coimisiún na Meán under the EU Regulation will be closely integrated with the Coimisiún’s other responsibilities, and that there is a coherent framework in Ireland for the regulation of online platforms.
“Our National Digital Strategy, Harnessing Digital, sets out Ireland’s ambition to be a centre of regulatory excellence in Europe for the benefit of both industry and consumers. This ambition is to be realised through a modern, cohesive, and well-resourced regulatory system for the digital economy. The Digital Services Bill will be a key enabler of this vision.”
The Digital Services Bill 2023 will designate Coimisiún na Meán as the Digital Services Coordinator and lead Competent Authority for the EU Regulation. It will also designate the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) as a second Competent Authority, with specific responsibility for online marketplaces under the EU Regulation.
Coimisiún na Meán was established by the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD on 15 March 2023.
NOTE TO EDITORS
EU Digital Services Regulation
The EU Digital Services Regulation introduces rules for online Intermediary Service Providers (ISPs). These include providers of network infrastructure; internet access; domain name registrars; cloud and web-hosting services; platforms bringing together sellers and consumers such as online marketplaces and app stores; and social media platforms.
The EU Regulation was adopted on 16 November 2022 and applied to the nineteen Very Large Online Platforms (VLOPs) and Very Large Online Search Engines (VLOSEs) from 25 August 2023. The European Commission has primary responsibility for regulating the VLOPs and VLOSEs, but will do so in concert with national authorities. The EU Regulation will have full effect from 17 February 2024.
The EU Regulation does not directly define what constitutes illegal or harmful online content. That determination comes from sectoral legislation, such as the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act, 2022. The EU Regulation is intended to provide a horizontal framework to facilitate the identification of illegal and harmful online content and for compelling the ISPs to have systems in place to ensure that prompt action will be taken when such content is identified.
The key benefits flowing from the EU Regulation for stakeholders are set out below:
Societal Dividends from EU Digital Services Regulation
- better protection of fundamental rights
- more control and choice
- stronger protection of children online
- less exposure to illegal content
For providers of intermediary digital services:
- legal certainty, harmonisation of rules
- easier to start-up and scale-up in Europe
For business users of intermediary digital services:
- access to EU-wide markets through platforms
- level-playing field against providers of illegal content
For society at large:
- greater democratic control and oversight over systemic platforms
- mitigation of systemic risks, such as manipulation or disinformation
Digital Services Bill 2023
The Digital Services Bill is a technical bill, drafted to address specific obligations on Member States of the EU to give effect to the supervision and enforcement provisions of the EU Regulation. The Bill does not add to or amend the obligations on online platforms under the EU Regulation. Those obligations have direct legal effect in all Member States of the EU and do not require any implementing measures in national law.
The Bill will empower Coimisiún na Meán and the CCPC to undertake investigations; to issue compliance notices and orders to end a contravention; to enter into commitment agreements with intermediary service providers; to apply for an order to block access to an intermediary service; to impose administrative fines and daily penalties up to the maximum limits as set out in the EU Regulation as follows:
- fines of up to 6% of the worldwide annual turnover of intermediary service providers that has been found to have infringed the EU Regulation
- fines of up to 1% of the worldwide annual turnover or annual income of a provider or other person that, during the course of an investigation into a suspected non-compliance of a provider with an obligation under the EU Regulation, supplies incorrect, incomplete or misleading information, fails to comply or rectify incorrect, incomplete or misleading information or fails to submit to an inspection
- periodic penalties of up to 5% of the average daily worldwide turnover or income of a provider or other persons for failure to comply with an investigative order or notice to cease an infringement of the EU Regulation
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