Ireland to ‘lead on enforcing’ EU laws on policing illegal content online

Government’s Digital Services Bill faced pre-legislative scrutiny from TDs on Wednesday

Ireland’s new media commission will have a lead role in enforcing sweeping new European laws aimed at ordering the world’s largest internet companies to police content on their platforms, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

The Government is in the process of transposing the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA), which the bloc adopted last November and which comes into force from February 2023, into Irish law through the Digital Services Bill. The proposed legislation came before Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment on Wednesday for pre-legislative scrutiny.

If the Oireachtas passes the legislation, the newly formed Coimisiún na Meán will have responsibility for enforcing and investigating breaches of the new rules after the Government designated the body as Ireland’s competent national authority.

It means that in addition to taking over the functions of the now-defunct Broadcasting Authority of Ireland as the enforcer of the regulatory framework for broadcasting and video-on-demand services, it will also act as “digital services coordinator” for Ireland under the DSA, assessing requests to take down illegal content online and issuing orders to do so among other functions.


With many of the world’s largest social media and ecommerce companies headquartered in Ireland as their EU base, concerns have been raised that the media commission will have an outsize role in the enforcement in the new rules.

Minister for Enterprise, Simon Coveney, said earlier this month that, from next year on, “it will be an Irish regulator that will be regulating digital services across all of the EU” because of the country of origin principle.

On Wednesday, Sinn Féin spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly asked Department of Enterprise officials whether the new framework would make Coimisiún na Meán the “lead EU regulator”, similar to the Data Protection Commission in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation.

Sabha Greene, principal officer at the Department of Enterprise with responsibility for the digital economic policy unit, said “it isn’t quite the same” because the European Commission will have a role as enforcer with “responsibility for some of the obligations that fall on the very large online platforms and search engines”. Under the DSA, this means companies with more than 45 million users.

She said, however, that the Irish regulator will be “leading on enforcing” unless “any particular case raises some kind of systematic concern, in which case, the European Commission has the right to take over that case”.

Ms Greene said the commission has a budget allocation of €2.7 million in 2023 for its digital services functions alone. She said that will cover the hiring of a new digital services commissioner and more staff generally.

“We’re being a bit flexible with Coimisiún na Meán to say how many people they might need for this year,” she said, as the commission prepares to launch a public consultation on new the legislation. Asked by Fine Gael TD David Sranton for an estimate of the cost of the additional responsibilities, Ms Greene said: “We don’t know yet. Part of our job in our unit is this year to work with [the commission] now that it’s up and running and to work out how many people they will need.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times