Facebook has told an Oireachtas committee that it thinks serious consideration should be given to pausing planned new national measures around online safety and media regulation until similar draft new EU laws are finalised.
The social network thinks that parts of the planned Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill (OSMR) could either overlap or conflict with some of what will be contained in a new EU regulation covering similar issues around online content and advertising.
The under debate Digital Safety Act, which will apply to all EU countries, is likely to be in force before the Online Safety Commissioner is fully functional in around three years' time, Facebook predicts.
Pausing the new national measures would therefore "avoid unnecessary duplication of work and ensure that consistency between the two regimes can be achieved," according to Dualta Ó Broin, Head of Public Policy at Facebook Ireland.
The issue is one of the concerns raised by Facebook in a submission to the Oireachtas Committee on Media as part of its consultation process on the in-development OSMR Bill.
The proposed legislation will see the appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner within a new Media Commission to replace the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.
The regulator will have the power to fine internet-based platforms for failing to meet new online safety standards and to hold individuals in those firms to account.
In its 65-page submission, Facebook states the safety of its users is an ongoing priority for it and to ensure they continue to feel safe it is determined to play a constructive role in the debate on how to regulate online content.
"Our submission reiterates Facebook's ongoing support for the swift appointment of an Online Safety Commissioner to regulate harmful online content and for a harmonised approach to online content regulation across the EU," Mr Ó Broin says.
But the company also expresses concern at the length of time it will take to get the OSMR Bill implemented and the impact that could have on its ability to comply with recent EU laws around content on video-sharing platforms.
These are contained in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) that was finalised in 2018 and was supposed to be transposed into Irish law by last September but it has not happened yet.
The OSMR Bill is also due to act as the legislative vehicle for this transposition, while the task of designating what content comes under the scope of the AVMSD, including services like Facebook's News Feed and Watch, will fall to the new regulator.
But Facebook is concerned that if the bill is not enacted until 2022 and the new regulator's office is not functional for at least another year beyond that or possibly longer, it will not be in a position to comply with the rules until then.
The company claims it is already coming under pressure in other European countries to fall into line with the directive.
"As things stand, the Irish regulator is unlikely to be established and fully functional until 2024 and we are concerned about what that delay means for the implementation of EU law," says Mr Ó Broin.
As a result, Facebook is calling on the Government to prioritise and expedite the implementation of the AVMSD by whatever means necessary, which may mean removing it from the OSMR Bill.
It says one option would be to assign temporary powers to an existing regulator such as the BAI until the Media Commission is up and running.
In its submission, Facebook also says it is critical that the Media Commission is fully resourced and staffed with sufficiently qualified individuals who can carry out all of its statutory functions.
This would ensure, it says, that the commission does not need to unduly avail of external resources in order to carry out its functions.
It also recommends that interpersonal communications services (ICS), such as private messaging apps like WhatsApp, be removed from the scope of the bill.
It says that in light of privacy concerns, it is proposed that online safety codes applying to such services will apply only in respect of material which it is a criminal offence to disseminate.
"However, this presupposes that providers of ICS in Ireland will have a legal basis to identify such content," Facebook argues in its submission, adding that this raises a number of serious concerns.
These include that it could put providers of these services in a very difficult legal situation when it comes to complying with the rules of two conflicting regimes, both of which provide for criminal sanctions.