Online Safety Bill could impact investment into Ireland, warns digital group

25 Oct 2022

Image: © Stasique/

The representative group for digital commerce said the bill could criminalise inadvertent errors, which would send a ‘negative message’ to tech companies.

Digital Business Ireland (DBI) has expressed concerns that the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill could impact investment into the country.

The Online Safety Bill is designed to regulate online services and reduce the availability of harmful content. It was approved by the Irish Government in January and is being debated in the Oireachtas this week.

DBI, the representative group for the digital commerce sector, said certain provisions in the bill could negatively affect Ireland’s ability to attract investment from digital companies.

Its chair said there is a “serious risk” of Ireland gaining a reputation as a country that is “hostile” towards tech.

The group’s key issue is a provision that proposes to criminalise company directors if the company commits an offence by failing to comply with a notice to end contravention.

According to DBI, the bill states that where companies commit that offence, if it is proved that it was “attributable to any neglect” by a director or senior manager, then that individual will also be guilty of an offence.

DBI said this term suggests that inadvertent errors will lead to criminalisation. The organisation added that the ‘any neglect’ standard is “extremely broad” and would “unduly affect” companies.

The representative body has written to the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin, TD, to express its concerns. It has suggested that the word ‘wilful’ be inserted into the proposed provision instead.

DBI chair Ashley McDonnell said the current proposal could be perceived as “sending a negative message” to companies that have invested billions in Ireland. She added that criminalising inadvertent errors “is a poor standard by any stretch of the imagination”.

“While we commend the Government for their work in adapting its liability rules to keep up with new technologies, we do have concerns that if the offending provision of this bill is enacted, that it could cause a serious risk of Ireland gaining a reputation as being hostile towards digital companies and their executives,” McDonnell said.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic