Insights Government publishes Guide to the Online Safety Bill


The Government says that The Online Safety Bill will protect children and adults online. It will make social media companies more responsible for their users’ safety on their platforms.

The Guide covers:

  • how the Bill will protect children: social media companies will be legally responsible for keeping children and young people safe online; they will be required to: (i) remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place, including removing content promoting self-harm; (ii) prevent children from accessing harmful and age-inappropriate content; (iii) enforce age limits and age-checking measures; (iv) ensure the risks and dangers posed to children on the largest social media platforms are more transparent, including by publishing risk assessments; and (v) provide parents and children with clear and accessible ways to report problems online;
  • how the Bill will protect adults: in three ways through a “triple shield”; platforms will need to: (i) remove all illegal content; (ii) remove content that is banned by their own terms and conditions; and (iii) empower adult internet users with tools so that they can tailor the type of content they see and can avoid potentially harmful content if they do not want to see it on their feeds; children will be automatically prevented from seeing this content without having to change any settings;
  • types of content tackled: removing illegal content (content that is already illegal plus content the subject of the new offences, including content that promotes self-harm) and preventing illegal content from appearing in the first place; removing content that is harmful or age-inappropriate to children (including pornographic content, online abuse, cyberbullying or online harassment and content that does not meet a criminal level but which promotes or glorifies suicide, self-harm or eating disorders;
  • underage children will be kept of social media platforms: social media companies will have to use age assurance or age verification technologies to check people’s ages online; they will have to say what technology they are using and show that they are enforcing age limits;
  • adults will have more control over the content they see: the largest platforms will have to offer adult users tools so that they have greater control over the content they see, including the option of filtering out unverified users to stop anonymous trolls contacting them;
  • the Bill will tackle repeat offenders: all social media companies will have to assess how their platforms could allow abusers to create anonymous profiles and take steps to ban repeat offenders;
  • how the Bill will be enforced: Ofcom will be in charge as a regulator to check platforms are protecting their users; platforms will have to show they have processes in place to meet the requirements set out by the Bill; Ofcom will check how effective those processes are at protecting internet users from harm; Ofcom will have powers to fine companies up to £18 million or 10% of their annual global turnover, whichever is greater if they do not comply with the new laws; criminal action will be taken against senior managers who fail to follow information requests from Ofcom; and
  • how the new laws impact international companies: Ofcom will have the power to take appropriate action against all social media and tech companies, no matter where they are based, if they are accessible to UK users.

The Guide states that the Government will take a phased approach to bringing in the Bill’s duties as Ofcom’s powers come into force. Ofcom will initially focus on illegal content to address the most serious harms as soon as possible. To access the Guide, click here.