Insights Government publishes draft Online Safety Bill


The Government has published a draft Online Safety Bill, together with Explanatory Notes and an Impact Assessment. Essentially, the Bill gives effect to the policy approach outlined in the Government responses from February 2020 and December 2020.

According to the Explanatory Notes, the Bill establishes a new regulatory regime to address illegal and harmful content online, with the aim of preventing harm to individuals in the UK. It imposes duties of care on providers of internet services (which are services “made available by means of the internet” even where they are made available by a combination of the internet and an electronic communications service) in relation to illegal content and content that is harmful to children, that allow the uploading and sharing of user-generated content (“user-to-user services”) and on providers of search engines which enable users to search multiple websites and databases (“search services”).

The Bill also imposes duties on providers in relation to the protection of users’ rights to freedom of expression and privacy. Providers of user-to-user services which meet specified thresholds will be subject to additional duties in relation to content that is harmful to adults, content of democratic importance and journalistic content.

The Bill also confers powers on Ofcom to oversee and enforce the new regulatory regime (including dedicated powers in relation to terrorism content and child sexual exploitation and abuse content) and requires Ofcom to prepare codes of practice to assist providers in complying with their duties of care. The Bill also expands Ofcom’s existing duties in relation to promoting the media literacy of members of the public. To access the Bill and related documents, click here. To read the Government’s press release, click here.