Majority of Irish people want greater regulation of online platforms – survey

Time for Government to ‘stand up to big tech’, Children’s Rights Alliance says

Some 91 per cent of survey respondents said they believe the Government should set rules to protect the public from online harm. Photograph: iStock

Some 91 per cent of survey respondents said they believe the Government should set rules to protect the public from online harm. Photograph: iStock

 

Irish people have had enough of “light touch regulation” of online platforms, a survey by the Children’s Rights Alliance survey indicates, with one in five respondents having personal experience of harm online or on social media.

A survey of more than 1,000 people by the charity found that respondents not only supported but were demanding greater regulation of online platforms and services.

Some 91 per cent said they believed the Government should stand up to big technology companies and set rules to protect the public from online harm, with 86 per cent agreeing with the statement that major tech companies have too much power and influence over politics and law.

The survey found 81 per cent agreed with a statement that the Government was too frightened of big tech companies to introduce effective laws to control them, while 70 per cent said the Government should introduce laws that hold social media companies responsible for content they allow on their platforms.

Almost half of those surveyed said that, by failing to introduce adequate safety rules, the Government was responsible for harmful material online .

Clear message

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, said the Irish public was sending a clear message to Government that they expect them to “stand up to big tech” and to create laws to ensure a safer online environment for them, their children and society as a whole.

“It is a damning reflection of the motivations behind big tech companies when nine out of 10 people agree that increasing profits is more important to these companies than making their services safer for the people who use them,” she said.

Ms Ward says there is a clear opportunity for the Government to address the concerns highlighted through the forthcoming Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, which is due for publication.

“However, if the Bill is to live up to its name, it must include specific provisions for an online safety commissioner with the ability and support to take swift action and a public complaints mechanism so people, particularly children and young people, do not have to place all their faith in the platforms to perform.”

John Church, chief executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (ISPCC), said a magnifying glass needed to be put on platforms and online services and how effective their own community standards or complaints processes really are for children and young people.

“Through Childline we consistently hear about just how consuming negative online experiences can be for children. It is critically important that government legislation in this area provides a way for children to seek redress,” he said.