Ireland’s online safety code criticised for allowing ‘toxic’ algorithms

28 May 2024

Image: © Suzi Media/

ICCL senior fellow Dr Johnny Ryan said the draft code underwent a ‘dangerous u-turn’ by no longer addressing recommender systems.

A new draft of Ireland’s online safety code has been criticised for not addressing “toxic” algorithms used by social media companies.

Coimisiún na Meán (CnaM) – Ireland’s media regulator – shared the latest draft of its online safety code yesterday (27 May), which will be submitted to the European Commission for assessment.

These rules will form part of Ireland’s overall online safety framework, which will aim to make digital platforms accountable for how they protect people online. The code puts obligations on video-sharing platforms to protect users from harmful content.

Some of the measures listed in this draft code include prohibiting harmful content, age verification measures to prevent children from accessing certain content and providing parental controls on these platforms.

But the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) has criticised the latest draft of the code for removing measures to address “recommender systems” – algorithms that suggest content to users based on data it has gathered about those particular users.

A survey commissioned by the ICCL and Uplift earlier this year suggests most of the Irish population wants social media algorithms to be regulated more strictly. The ICCL and more than 60 organisations made a submission to CnaM earlier this year, urging action on recommender systems.

ICCL senior fellow Dr Johnny Ryan responded to the removal of these measures and said it is a “dangerous u-turn”.

“In December, Coimisiún na Meán’s draft code showed the world what leadership in reining in Big Tech looks like,” Ryan said. “Everybody supports giving users the freedom to decide for themselves whether they can be profiled and fed algorithmic content.

“We are dismayed that Coimisiún na Meán has removed this essential measure from the code.”

CnaM told RTÉ that it recognises the harmful impact recommender systems can have, but it will be best to tackle these dangers through the implementation of the EU’s Digital Services Act. Ryan claimed the Irish regulator has had its “wings clipped” by the European Commission.

Find out how emerging tech trends are transforming tomorrow with our new podcast, Future Human: The Series. Listen now on Spotify, on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic