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Ireland Submits “Online Safety Code” for EU Assessment – Pushes Censorship, Digital ID

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Ireland’s media regulator (Coimisiún na Meán) has updated the Online Safety Code (part of the Online Safety Framework, a mechanism of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act), and submitted it to the European Commission for assessment.

Considered by opponents as a censorship law that also imposes age verification or estimation (phrased as “age assurance”), the Code aims to establish binding rules for video platforms with EU headquarters located in Ireland.

It is expected that the European Commission will announce its position within 3 to 4 months, after which the rules will be finalized and put into effect, the regulator said.

Once greenlit by Brussels, the final version of the Code will impose obligations on platforms to ban uploading or sharing videos of what is considered to be cyberbullying, promoting self-harm or suicide, and promoting eating or feeding disorders.

But the list is much longer and includes content deemed to be inciting hatred or violence, terrorism, child sex abuse material, racism, and xenophobia.

Even though the new rules will inevitably give wide remit to censor video content as belonging to any of these many categories, and even though children are unavoidably mentioned as the primary concern, the Irish press reports that not everyone is satisfied with just how far the new Code goes.

One is a group called the Hope and Courage Collective (H&CC), whose purpose is apparently to “fight against far-right hate.” H&CC is worried that the Code will not be able to “keep elections safe” nor protect communities “targeted by hate.”

But what it will do, according to the media regulator’s statement, is to use “age assurance” as a way to prevent children from viewing inappropriate content, and do so via age verification measures.

The age verification controversy, however, doesn’t stem from (even if only declarative) intent behind it, but from the question of how it is supposed to be implemented, and how that implementation will stop short of undermining privacy and therefore security of all users of a platform.

Still, the Irish regulator is satisfied that its new code, along with the EU’s Digital Services Act and Terrorist Content Online Regulation, will give it “a strong suite of tools to improve people’s lives online.”

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