The UK Online Safety Bill marks a milestone in the fight for a new digital age which is safer for users and holds tech giants to account. It will protect children from harmful content such as pornography and limit people’s exposure to illegal content, while protecting freedom of speech.
At least that’s the intention, but these matters are very difficult to codify into law and the online world keeps changing at an ever faster pace.
Key points include:
- It will require social media platforms, search engines and other apps and websites allowing people to post their own content to protect children, tackle illegal activity and uphold their stated terms and conditions.
- The regulator Ofcom will have the power to fine companies failing to comply with the laws up to ten per cent of their annual global turnover, force them to improve their practices and block non-compliant sites.
- Executives whose companies fail to cooperate with Ofcom’s information requests could now face prosecution or jail time within two months of the Bill becoming law, instead of two years as it was previously drafted.
The government significantly strengthened the Bill since it was first published in draft in May 2021. Changes since the draft Bill include:
- Making sure all websites which publish or host pornography, including commercial sites, put robust checks in place to ensure users are 18 years old or over.
- Adding new measures to clamp down on anonymous trolls to give people more control over who can contact them and what they see online.
- Making companies proactively tackle the most harmful illegal content and criminal activity quicker.
- Criminalising the sending of unsolicited sexual images to people using social media, known as cyber-flashing
- Giving people the right to appeal if they feel their social media posts were removed unfairly
- Preventing online scams, such as paid-for fraudulent adverts, investment fraud and romance scammers
- Requiring pornography websites to verify their users’ ages
Any firm breaching the rules would face a fine of up to 10% of its turnover, while non-compliant websites could be blocked entirely.
If you have any experiences with these scams do let me know, by email.