The publication of the Digital Services Bill 2023 ("the 2023 Bill") on 05 December 2023 marks the next step in Ireland's journey towards full implementation of the EU Digital Services Act ("DSA") (Regulation (EU) 2022/2065) which is due to take full effect from 17 February 2024.
Digital Services Act ("DSA")
Since 25 August 2023, the DSA has been a reality for the 19 very large online platforms ("VLOPS") and very large online search engines ("VLOSE") designated by the European Commission. Those designated platforms and search engines have been bound by the strict regulatory obligations of the DSA which include reporting obligations, independent audits, data sharing, enforcement and monitoring. While the European Commission will have ultimate responsibility for regulating VLOPS and VLOSE, it will do so in co-operation with the national authority, Coimisiún na Meán ("the Commission"). Co-operation between both is provided for in Section 41 of the 2023 Bill.
The Commission was established following the implementation of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022 ("the 2022 Act"). The Irish Government designated the Commission as the Digital Services Co-ordinator ("DSC") and on 24 July 2023 appointed John Evans and the Digital Services Commissioner. It is anticipated that Mr Evans will work very closely with the other Commissioners within the Commission, and in particular the Online Safety Commissioner, Niamh Hodnett to ensure there is a coherent framework for regulation of online platforms in Ireland.
An example of how the European Commission and the national authority may work in practice was evident last month when Coimisiún na Meán became the first member state to trigger an alert to the European Commission in November 2023. This came as a result of the Dublin riots which saw the spread of hateful, illegal and harmful online content on online platforms. By triggering the alert under the DSA, the European Commission became directly involved in warning the platforms of their obligations.
Digital Services Bill 2023 ("2023 Bill").
The 2023 Bill is drafted to give effect to the supervision and enforcement provisions of the DSA. The 2023 Bill sets out the investigatory and enforcement powers the Commission will have which includes the ability to issue compliance notices and to impose administrative fines and daily penalties.
The 2023 Bill has only just completed the first stage at Dáil Éireann so it may be some time before it passes through Seanad Éireann in advance of being signed into law by Uachtarán na hÉireann.
As the 2023 Bill progresses through the Dáil and Seanad, we will continue to blog on how the implementation of the Bill will impact relevant stakeholders.
Sign up to our email digest