Taoiseach says stricter social media rules in Ireland imminent following Leo Varadkar incident

Martin discussed the need for stricter social media regulations in the wake of Leo Varadkar's video controversy.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, who recently discussed stricter social media regulation, speaking to an audience.
Image: Via Twitter - @MichealMartinTD

Speaking of the impact that online platforms nowadays have on public debate and politics, Taoiseach Micheál Martin discussed the imminent introduction of stricter social media regulation.

During an interview with The Indo Daily Podcast, the Taoiseach was asked about the controversy surrounding a video that was recently shared on social media featuring openly gay Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in a Dublin nightclub.

Martin condemned the video calling it an intrusion into Varadkar’s private life and saying that “what happened was a breach of privacy fundamentally”.

While the video in question has since been removed from social media platform TikTok, it had already been viewed by millions of people since it was shared last week.

Martin continued saying, “I do accept that in the world of social media it is an ever-present reality, perhaps, or danger but what would concern me is the degree to which it could deter people from getting involved in politics”.

He also shares that he believes society has “not fully worked out” the impact that social media can have on our lives and, more specifically, on public debate and politics. “I think we are now entering into a new era where there’ll be far more regulation of social media platforms,” he said.

Martin spoke about pending legislation that would introduce the first social media regulator in Ireland, which would be coupled with EU directives that are set to introduce stricter rules for tech companies that are in charge of online platforms.

He then also spoke about individual responsibility when it comes to safety in online spaces. He said, “I think a lot of companies are doing a lot of work to try and take hate speech off, to take a lot of material down as quickly as it goes up and I think there has to be a responsibility on individuals and society as well”.

Ireland has already started to legislate to ensure people’s safety on the internet, as only a few days ago, on December 10, President Higgins signed the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill into law.

Commenting on the new law, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, said that it “modernises the regulation of the media ecosystem in Ireland and lays the foundations for the new regulatory frontier of online safety which will be of great importance to protecting children online”.

“This Act is the first step in what will be a rolling legislative programme in this space over the coming years.” the Minister added.

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