‘They Would Be Able To Take Down Private Messages’


Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, from its proposal to regulate social media across Europe; solicitor Simon McGarr


Samantha McCaughren, in the Sunday Independent, reported that the Government is considering proposals from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland that it be given the power to regulate content on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Ireland and across Europe.

Solicitor and director at Data Compliance Europe Simon McGarr spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the proposal this morning and said he didn’t think BAI should be given those powers.

He said:

“I think that the proposal that they’ve [BAI] made today, and they’re publishing later this morning, is basically 98 pages intended to make that argument that they are [right group for the job] but demonstrating throughout exactly why they should not be the body to do that.”

“I think perhaps the best example would be to think of whether or not we thought that the 1950 Censorship Board of Ireland would be the correct body to be put in charge of a modern censorship organisation or a classification organisation.

“The argument that would be made is: ‘well, we have the most experience censoring things and therefore we should be put in charge of all these other censoring activities’.

“It’s precisely because of its institutional history, not because of the people on the board but because of the legislation that was created by the Broadcasting Act of 2009.

“While the institution of the BAI doesn’t have the right instincts, institutional instincts and experience for regulating a completely different form of communication because what has happened here in this body’s proposal is that they have taken the concept of regulating broadcast and applied it in certain areas to regulating areas between individuals.

“So we are now looking at a proposal for example in this, that they would be able to take down private messages, including encrypted messages, sent by things such as WhatsApp or IM message between individuals and they’d be able to censor those messages.”

He added:

“For example, we don’t open all the envelopes in An Post to check whether or not we think that the content is acceptable and deliver on the basis of somebody censoring that information.”

The interview can be listened to in full in the Soundcloud link above or here

Mr McGarr has also written a blog post about the matter here

Why the BAI is not the body to regulate the internet (Simon McGarr, Tuppenceworth.ie)

Sponsored Link

16 thoughts on “‘They Would Be Able To Take Down Private Messages’

  1. dav

    A very strange bid by the BAI, I can’t imagine them having the resources/ expertise to do such a mammoth job

  2. eoin

    We all know that “harmful content” will be expanded in due course to include anything which criticises politicians, I’m surprised it has taken the party of the McEntees six years to get us to this point.

  3. phil

    Its ESB networks that are the real villain here. They facilitate the sending of content that needs to be regulated from people through the internet by providing the electricity thats used to power ISP’s and your desktop computer….

  4. Dr.Fart MD

    remember when Varadkar said he wanted to police social media in ireland, but not to shield kids from porn, but to stop what he called ‘fake news’ but in actuality he just didn’t like how FG were constantly exposed on social media. . . ok remember that? well this is his trojan horse to do that. mark my words.

  5. Vanessa the Holy Face of Frilly Keane

    I remember taking a look at their staffing structure there a while back
    It was a follow up from a journo about the last RTÉ accounts thing I did
    it turns out that something I said about RTÉ strategy was pretty much mirrored in a Report from the EU about them and the BAI that followed shortly after

    Anyway, I just ran back there to look at the notes and I’ll just drop this nugget with ye
    (at the time – early October 2018)
    84% of the Manpower Compliment in the BAI were Executive Officer or higher

    My conclusions at the time were that they are an awful lot of senior public sector grades employed in the BAI with very little remit or responsibility

    As to whether this should be a matter for them, I’m not qualified to say
    But if their management of RTÉ is anything to go by
    and the blatant, if not brazen, lack of independence on their Board is any judge
    No. Absolutely not.

    I personally would like to see the depth of Drew Harris’s new financial crime unit, and if it promises some potential, maybe its worth considering a Joint Action Unit between a number of organisations to include AGS / Dept of Justice/ Dept of Defence/ Data Protection Commissioner

    I really don’t know. But a single quango that already has questions about its own governance and its actual contribution – value for money for the State etc is most definitely not a runner.
    That stinks of Jobs for the Boys, and their ties to RTÉ are far too risky imo.

    1. Cian

      Vanessa, it isn’t fair to say:
      84% of the Manpower Compliment in the BAI were Executive Officer or higher.

      My conclusions at the time were that they are an awful lot of senior public sector grades employed in the BAI with very little remit or responsibility

      According to their 2017 Annual Report they employ 35 people. Your 84% is 30 people.
      There are 5 clerical officers in an organization of 35? Seems about right. Not many clerical roles in somewhere like BAI.

      Then you talk about “senior public grades” – what do you mean? Everyone that isn’t a clerical officer is a “senior grade” . Meh. They employ 6 people that are paid more than €70K (principal officers), another 6 earn €60-€70K (Assistant Principals)

  6. Dub Spot


    Stop this now.

    Neither independent nor an authority over ANYTHING. This is ALL about FG/FF controlling the media and the mnessage + More jobs for the girls and boys of gammonland. Let them stick to sending 68 yr olds to pensions in Brussels to add to their pot.

    1. Rob_G

      What on earth does this have to do with the BAI regulating online platforms…

      This is unusually paranoid AND stupid, even from you.

  7. Bryan Wall

    It’s been on the cards for a while now to make the BAI more powerful. Fianna Fáil issued a report last year about the state of journalism in Ireland and part of its recommendations is to make the BAI oversee print journalism and funding of journalists directly.

    “At the time of the BAI’s establishment, print media did not need financial support in order to survive. It is increasingly obvious that this is no longer the case. The time has now come for the state to broaden its funding remit of the media. The BAI is best placed to perform this function and under a Fianna Fail Government it will be expanded to support public interest journalism in the print sector. Since its inception in 2009 the BAI has been highly regarded as a trusted and effective regulator. Its core values of professionalism, impartiality and fairness coupled with a motivation to act in the public interest makes it, in our view, the best entity to tackle the challenges facing journalism in the print media sector.

    “We propose the establishment of a dedicated Print journalism Unit, within an expanded BAI. In collaboration with key stakeholders and the Irish Press Council, the unit will develop a strategy to support public service journalism in the print sector. The unit will develop appropriate criteria and devise innovative new schemes to support the work of journalists, through the dispersal of Grant aid to support Newspaper publishers in providing public service content at national and local level. While it is obvious that there must be direct support from the state to the media, there is a clear need to ensure that the funding mechanisms are independent of politics, and that funding cannot be used to achieve political ends.
    Therefore, funding criteria and decisions will be made entirely by this new entity, independent of government and the political system. Its core objectives will be to ensure a strong and diverse print media sector supporting public interest journalism to the benefit of the democratic life of the Irish State.”

    Can’t find the report on the Fianna Fáil website any more but they’ve hosted it over on the Examiner website.


Comments are closed.

Sponsored Link