Online Safety Bill: Latest amendments increase focus on children safety

Published on 31 March 2023

The question

What is the focus of the latest round of amendments proposed to the Online Safety Bill and how will these impact online platforms?

The key takeaway

The Online Safety Bill requires digital platforms which host user-generated content to comply with requirements aimed at reducing harmful content. Sanctions for non-compliance are proposed to be fines of up to 10% of the global turnover of the company and a jail sentence of up to two years for senior managers.

The background

The Online Safety Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 17 March 2022 and the most recent, second reading of the Bill took place in the House of Lords on 3 February 2023. The Bill proposes better regulation for search engines and firms that host user-generated content and aims to reduce the amount of online content deemed inappropriate for young users and that ministers believe causes serious harm to their safety. This includes content promoting self-harm, eating disorders, and those that depict sexual violence as well as child sexual abuse material, revenge pornography, selling illegal drugs or weapons, and terrorism. 

The development

The measures, put forward by nearly 50 Conservative MPs and backed by the Labour Party, will impose a duty to ensure children’s online safety by mitigating and managing the risks and impact of harm to children online. 
Tech firms within scope are required to introduce and enforce strict age limits and publish risk assessments detailing threats their services may encounter regarding inappropriate content and keeping children safe. Ofcom will have the power to issue enforcement notices to senior managers of tech platforms who are found to have breached their child safety duties by allowing exposure to age-restricted or illegal content. Online providers must co-operate fully with an Ofcom investigation into whether their service has failed to comply with the requirements. Ofcom will only be able to prosecute senior managers if they fail to cooperate with an investigation. Failure to comply with their duties may result in fines of up to 10% of the company’s global turnover and a maximum prison sentence of up to two years.

The Bill is still making its way through the House of Lords and is at the committee stage. It is expected to receive Royal Assent this summer. 

Why is this important?

The latest amendments place the burden on tech companies to proactively assess risks of harm to their users and establish systems and processes to keep them safer online, rather than on Ofcom moderating individual pieces of content. Its scope will likely affect not only the obvious “Big Tech” social media platforms and search engines, but also thousands of smaller platforms, including messaging services, websites, platforms and online forums where information sharing, advertising and user interaction takes place. 

Any practical tips?

Considering the extent of the newly proposed sanctions, organisations must fully consider whether they come within the scope of the Bill, keeping in mind that most companies that which provide online content are likely to be caught by its provisions. Beyond keeping a close eye on the passage of the Bill through Parliament, practical steps businesses should consider include: 

  • undertaking a risk assessment of your operations and websites, and reviewing complaints procedures and terms of service
  • considering how improvements can be made to your systems for content monitoring, keeping in mind the importance of balancing freedom of expression with the need to protect users from harm
  • considering setting up internal structures for identifying and reporting potential harm to children to the National Crime Agency, and
  • keeping a watch on Ofcom’s activities, as it consults on various aspects of the Bill and prepares to regulate on it.


Spring 2023


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