Complain about online platforms

Your right to complain

Online platforms like social media networks, host providers and online marketplaces have become part of our daily lives.

However, sometimes online platforms can be misused to spread harmful or illegal media such as hate speech, terrorist content or child sexual abuse material (CSAM). They can also be abused to sell dangerous goods and counterfeit products, or to offer illegal services, exposing users to harm.

Since 17 February 2024, you have the right to make a complaint against online platforms if you:

  • See harmful or illegal content
  • Need to report a violation of terms
  • Have concerns about targeted ads

In most cases, you should first complain to the platform itself and then complain to Coimisiún na Meán if you believe the platform has not met its obligations.

Who can make a complaint?

You can make a complaint as a:

  • Member of the public
  • An organisation acting on behalf of a user
  • Trusted flagger

A trusted flagger is an organisation given special status based on its expertise and competence in reporting illegal content such as the Irish Network Against Racism.

Online platforms must prioritise complaints made by trusted flaggers. Coimisiún na Meán has more information about trusted flaggers.

What is the Digital Services Act?

The Digital Services Act (DSA) introduces new rules to protect children and adults online. It makes online platforms more responsible for the safety of their users by holding the platform accountable for what they host.

Platforms must quickly identify and remove illegal and harmful content, giving users more control over their online experience.

What online platforms are covered?

The table below explains the types of online platforms covered and examples of commonly used platforms. There are links to where to complain for each platform. Read more about 'How to complain to the platform' below.

Who regulates online platforms?

Coimisiún na Meán – Ireland’s media regulator – is the Irish Digital Services Coordinator under the DSA and has powers to carry out investigations and take enforcement actions.

Coimisiún na Meán is currently preparing a new Online Safety Code (pdf).

How to complain about harmful or illegal content

Online platforms must have a way for you to tell them about illegal content. You can read more about what makes content illegal.

Report harmful or illegal content

You can report harmful or illegal content to the online platform. The platform must inform law enforcement if necessary.

If you tell them about something illegal, they must review it and act if they agree it is illegal. They must do this quickly and tell you what they decide.

What to include in your report

Provide the following information in your report:

  • Explain the reasons why you believe the content is illegal
  • The location of the content, such as the exact URL(s)
  • Your name and email address, except in cases of content involving child sexual abuse material (CSAM)
  • A statement confirming your honest belief that the contents of the report are accurate and complete

Immediate danger or risk of harm

If you or someone else is in immediate danger or risk of harm, call emergency services, for free, by dialling 112 from any phone.

If you want to report a crime or suspected criminal activity, contact An Garda Síochána at your local station or call the free Garda Confidential telephone number on 1800 666 111.

If you suspect a child is a victim of abuse or at risk, contact your local Garda station or the free Garda Confidential line.

What to expect after you report

After reporting illegal content to the platform, you will receive confirmation of your report from the platform, if you included your email.

If the platform identifies illegal content, they must act promptly to remove or disable access.

You will be notified of their decision without delay. If the platform based its decision using automation (without human input), they have to tell you how they used automation. The platform must also give you information on how to appeal their decision.

If the content is not taken down

Online platforms must act quickly on reports they receive. If the platform does not delete the content or respond to you, you have options for redress (ways to solve the issue).

The first step is to use the platform's internal complaint system within 6 months of the decision.

If you believe a provider has not met its obligations, you can make a complaint to Coimisiún na Meán.

Read more on ‘How to complain to the platform’ and ‘How to take your complaint further’ below.

Coimisiún na Meán has common questions and answers on reporting illegal content.

Concerns about targeted ads

Online platforms must:

  • Mark ads so you know you are seeing an ad
  • Give you information on who is presenting the ad and who paid for it (if different)
  • Give you reasons you were targeted for an ad and information on how you can change these settings

Ads must not target certain personal data, including race, ethnic origin, political opinion, membership in a trade union, religious or philosophical beliefs, health data, your sex life, or sexual orientation.

Ads shown to children and young people

Online platforms that children can access must have appropriate and proportionate measures to protect the privacy, safety, and security of children using their services.

Services must not use profiling data to decide which ads to show children. Profiling data is information about your preferences and interests from the websites you visit, what you “like” or links you follow.

Recommender systems

Platforms can often use recommender systems to decide which content to show users and in which order.

Recommender systems can be abused and manipulated to fuel dangerous disinformation and propagate illegal content.

An online platform that uses recommender systems must explain how content is being selected to be shown or recommended to you in its terms and conditions.

The explanation must include:

  • How content is selected
  • Options for you to change or influence recommendations

Platform design concerns

Platforms must not influence, deceive or manipulate users through their design and online interface.

The platform must not:

  • Use deceptive design practices, for example, have pre-selected options
  • Limit your freedom in choices
  • Present you with false urgency messages or countdown timers
  • Make it harder for you to cancel a subscription than to subscribe

Coimisiún na Meán has common questions and answers on advertising, online interfaces and recommender systems.

If you believe a platform has not met its obligations, you can complain to Coimisiún na Meán.

Your content or account was wrongfully restricted, blocked or suspended

An online platform can restrict the visibility of a user’s content if the content is illegal or does not comply with the provider’s terms and conditions. Restricting the visibility means they can:

  • Remove it
  • Disable access to it
  • Demote it (meaning it does not appear high up when searched or as a recommended video)

Terms and conditions

Terms and conditions must explain the rules of the service use and any restrictions that may be applied when the rules are breached.

Terms and conditions must include:

  • Information on any policies, procedures, measures, and tools used for content moderation
  • Rules of procedure for its internal complaint handling system

The terms and conditions must be easy to find, user-friendly, and easy to understand. They must be publicly available in machine-readable format and easy to access.

For sites mostly used by children under 18 (or minors), terms and conditions must be explained in a way children can easily understand.

Use of restrictions

Online platforms must act diligently and objectively to apply these restrictions. They must consider the rights and legitimate interests of all parties involved. This includes the fundamental rights to:

  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom and pluralism of the media

They must also consider other fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

If you believe an online platform has not met its obligations about its terms and conditions, you can make a complaint to Coimisiún na Meán.

Your content or account was restricted

If your content or account was restricted, the online platform must give you clear reasons, including:

  • An explanation of why the content is illegal
  • Type of decision (for example removing or demoting it)
  • How long the decision will last for
  • Facts and circumstances of the decision (for example whether it arose from their own investigation or after a report of illegal content)
  • What geographic area is affected
  • If automation was part of the decision
  • Clear and user-friendly information on your redress options

Dispute a platform's decision

If you're not satisfied with a platform's decision, you should make a complaint within 6 months from the date of the decision. Make sure your complaint includes the necessary details for consideration.

See ‘How to complain to the platform’ below. If you are not satisfied, you can complain to Coimisiún na Meán.

Coimisiún na Meán has common questions and answers on restrictions on content or user accounts.

How to complain to the platform

Online platforms must provide an easy-to-use, user-friendly way to make a complaint. They must allow you to submit the necessary information for the platform provider to consider your complaint. You must be able to submit your complaint electronically and for free.

Single point of contact

Online platforms must assign an easy-to-access contact point. Communication cannot be fully automated. Contact information must be easy to access and up to date.

Coimisiún na Meán has links to some of the largest online platforms.

How the platform must handle your complaint

The platform must:

  • Handle your complaint diligently and in a timely, non-discriminatory, and non-arbitrary way (this means they must follow principles and the correct process)
  • Notify you of their decision about your complaint and their reasons without delay
  • Advise you of the options for redress if you are not satisfied

If the platform does not have a proper complaint process or you can't find a suitable contact, you can bring your complaint to Coimisiún na Meán. See more below.

How to take your complaint further

You can make a complaint to Coimisiún na Meán by:

Make sure you have all the relevant information and documentation before contacting Coimisiún na Meán.

Information to include with your complaint

You should include the following relevant information in your complaint:

  • The name of the online platform (including URL)
  • Details of your communication with the platform, including initial report and appeal or complaint
  • Details of your complaint, including the reasons why you believe the online service did not comply with its obligations under the Digital Services Act (DSA)
  • URLs, screenshots, or any other evidence that will help your complaint

Coimisiún na Meán strongly recommends sending as much information as you can by email including relevant screenshots to ensure a full and timely response.

How your complaint is handled by Coimisiún na Meán

Coimisiún na Meán follows these steps.

  • Acknowledge and check if valid: They will acknowledge receiving the complaint and check it is valid. If it is not valid, they will explain why.
  • Initial assessment: They will decide if they can handle it or if it must be handled by another public body.
  • Further assessment: They decide what action to take.

Decisions Coimisiún na Meán can take

Coimisiún na Meán can take the following decisions:

  • Serve a Compliance Notice on the online platform
  • Further investigate the complaint
  • Dismiss the complaint if they find it frivolous, vexatious, or not made in good faith or if the subject matter is trivial
  • Any other action they think is appropriate
  • Take no action

They will notify you and the online platform of the decision.

Appealing the decision

There is no right to appeal Coimisiún na Meán’s decisions.

More information

You can read more about online safety.

Read detailed questions and answers on your right to complain on Coimisiún na Meán’s website.


Teil: 01 963 7755
Láithreán Gréasáin:
Dáta an Leasaithe Deireanaigh: 14 Márta 2024