Online safety body ‘needs teeth’ for complaints against social media platforms

Children and young people have a right to an effective remedy, says Children’s Rights Alliance

A “well-resourced” online safety commissioner with an independent complaints mechanism for when a social media platform fails to deal with a complaint appropriately should be included in upcoming legislation, the Children’s Rights Alliance has said.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the alliance, said it is "simply not good enough" that the Government is contemplating putting an online safety commissioner in place "with no teeth to help individual children and young people who are up against big tech companies".

The alliance unveiled a online safety campaign on Tuesday in response to the Government’s Online Safety and Media Regulation (OSMR) Bill.

The Joint Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht is conducting pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Bill, which aims to help address harmful online content and provides for the appointment of an online safety commissioner.


Ms Ward said a commissioner should be put in place that has the power to take on and resolve individual complaints from children and young people.

“We know children and families can have serious trouble resolving issues and complaints with social media platforms. To solve this, we want to see an online safety commissioner that plays a central role in setting a high bar for safety and is sufficiently resourced to act when platforms and companies fall below that threshold,” Ms Ward said.

“Children and young people have a right to an effective remedy, and that is at the centre of what we are proposing with an individual complaints mechanism.

“When an online platform fails to respond to a complaint in a timely way or if a person is unsatisfied with the response, there needs to be an avenue for them, so they are not left in the dark about what to do next.

“With an individual complaints mechanism, they can raise a complaint with the online safety commissioner who has the power to investigate the complaint and when necessary, compel the platform to remove the content or take other appropriate actions.”

Peter Tyndall, Ombudsman and Information Commissioner for Ireland, said: "My experience as Ombudsman reminds me just how important independent, individual mechanisms are for people who have a complaint about a body or agency that they believe has not treated them fairly.

“The purpose of my office, and I imagine it will be similar for a newly established online safety commissioner’s office, is ultimately to help people find a resolution when their voices are not being heard by the body who has made a decision that is not in line with fair procedures.

“Without an independent, individual mechanism, my concern would be that this Bill will not provide an effective mechanism for individuals to challenge decisions and receive an appropriate remedy.”

Noeline Blackwell, chief executive of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, said most young people "simply want hurtful and harmful content removed and to move on with their lives".

“We have heard from young people who have asked social media platforms to remove harmful content to no avail,” she said.

“They found it a very distressing experience, and it compounded the detrimental impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times