The UK’s Online Safety Act finally becomes law

The UK’s comprehensive Online Safety Bill, aimed at establishing the nation as the “safest place in the world to be online,” has received royal assent and officially became law today.

The legislation, years in the making, introduces new obligations for tech companies regarding the design, operation, and moderation of their online platforms. The bill specifically targets various online harms,”like terrorism and revenge pornography. They will also have to stop children seeing material that is harmful to them such as bullying, content promoting self-harm and eating disorders, and pornography.”

“The Online Safety Act’s strongest protections are for children. Social media companies will be held to account for the appalling scale of child sexual abuse occurring on their platforms and our children will be safer,” said UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

“We are determined to combat the evil of child sexual exploitation wherever it is found, and this Act is a big step forward.”

While the Online Safety Act is now legally binding, online platforms are not required to immediately implement all of their duties as outlined in the legislation. The UK’s telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, responsible for enforcing these regulations, plans to release its codes of practice in a phased approach. 

The initial phase addresses how platforms must respond to illegal content, such as terrorism-related material and child sexual abuse content, with a consultation on proposals for handling these responsibilities scheduled for publication on November 9th.

Phases two and three encompass platforms’ responsibilities related to child safety, preventing underage access to explicit content, issuing transparency reports, averting fraudulent ads, and providing user-centric empowerment tools for enhanced content control. 

Non-compliance with the Online Safety Act may result in fines of up to £18 million (approximately $22 million) or 10 percent of the company’s global annual turnover (whichever is higher), with the potential for legal consequences for company executives.

Written by Maya Robertson


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