Government is not in the pocket of tech giants, Minister insists

Communications Minister Richard Bruton

The Communications Minister has denied Ireland is in the pocket of tech giants like Facebook.

Reports over the weekend said former Taoiseach Enda Kenny helped Facebook influence EU data protection laws - something which has been disputed by the Irish regulator.

The government this morning launched plans to fine or criminally charge tech giants who refuse to co-operate with a new Online Safety Commissioner.

Minister Richard Bruton has denied the government is in the pockets of the large social media companies:

"I think the evidence is absolutely clear that we are not (in their pockets)," he said.

"I think Enda Kenny played a significant role in changing that.

"It was a very small operation and people felt it didn't have the capability to police and take on the responsibility. He has dramatically strengthened that office."

He added it is no longer sustainable to allow social media companies to self-regulate their users online safety.

Mr Bruton says a new Online Safety Act is needed to protect children online, with plans in place to tackle cyber bullying in particular.

An Online Safety Commissioner will be able to hand out fines to companies who don't comply with the new laws.

The Online Safety Act has been lauded by the Children's Rights Alliance

"To date the digital world, the online world has become a wild west where there has been no regulation or poor regulation of big tech companies," said Tanya Ward, the group's chief executive.

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