Why is Reddit challenging Ireland’s media regulator in court?

17 Jan 2024

Image: © Rafael Henrique/Stock.adobe.com

Reddit is seeking a judicial review to challenge its designation as a video-sharing platform, which would require it to take new measures around online safety or face significant fines.

Social media platform Reddit has taken legal action against Coimisiún na Meán (CnaM) over a recent designation, according to multiple reports.

The platform has applied for a judicial review against the recent decision by Ireland’s media regulator to list Reddit as a video-sharing platform – a designation that could force Reddit to take steps around online safety. Reddit and nine other platforms received this designation last week.

Reddit has been contacted for comment but has not responded. CnaM said it won’t be commenting on matters before the courts.  The Journal reports that Reddit filed the judicial review application on Monday (15 January) and is being represented by legal firm A&L Goodbody.

What does the designation mean?

Under new rules being finalised by Ireland’s media regulator, video-sharing platform services will have extra responsibilities when it comes to regulating content online.

The 10 platforms that were chosen will have to follow rules listed in Ireland’s online safety code, which includes a range of measures that aim to keep people – particularly children – safe online. The public consultation on this code is open for responses until 19 January 2024.

Under the rules of this code, video-sharing platforms will have to prevent the uploading or sharing of various forms of illegal content, such as posts that incite hatred or violence. The selected platforms will also have to provide media literacy tools to help people recognise disinformation and misinformation.

Why is Reddit challenging the designation?

Reddit has not publicly stated why it is seeking to overturn its designation as a video-sharing platform, but the designation means the company could face significant fines if it fails to introduce measures listed in the online safety code.

Platforms that breach the code will face fines of up to €20m, according to the draft documents. CnaM developed this draft online safety code as part of its plans to enforce Ireland’s Online Safety and Media Regulation Act, which was signed into law last year.

The finalised code will form part of Ireland’s overall online safety framework, which will make a range of online services legally accountable for how they keep people safe online. CnaM said this framework is based on the Online Safety and Media Regulation Act 2022, the EU Digital Services Act and the EU Terrorist Content Online Regulation.

What is a judicial review?

The Court Service of Ireland states that a judicial review lets parties challenge the decision-making processes of administrative bodies and lower courts. The High Court is not concerned with the merits of the decision but rather the lawfulness of the decision-making process, according to Ireland’s Citizen Information Board.

Based on these descriptions, it seems the High Court will review how CnaM’s decision to designate Reddit as a video-sharing platform was made and the fairness of the decision.

In 2021, Meta attempted to block a decision by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission through a judicial review, but this was blocked by the High Court.

If successful, Reddit’s judicial review of its designation could lead to other platforms challenging CnaM. The other platforms that were designated as video-sharing platform services are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Udemy, TikTok, LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), Pinterest and Tumblr.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic