The Online Safety Bill which was introduced to parliament yesterday has brought forward new measures for tech firms to abide by, under a new regulation by Ofcom who will be able to fine and in some circumstances, prosecute those who do not comply with the law.
A monumental step includes Ofcom being able to investigate companies in how they keep their users safe online; through being able to request information, interviews with staff and other types of company data. They have also highlighted that those who do not cooperate or falsify or destroy their data could be prosecuted with the possibility of spending potentially two years in prison.
For businesses, the Online Safety Bill is looking to bring forward new measures that will aim to protect users whilst bringing in more accountability for the companies and the senior bosses who work for them. Some of the applicable new areas of address include:
- Limiting the user’s exposure to illegal content online
- Ensuring online platforms where people can post their own content are upholding their terms and conditions whilst protecting children
- Ensuring there are verification checks on online sites that host pornography (18+)
- Ensuring that companies tackle online illegal or criminal activity quicker
- Defining ‘legal but harmful’ content and ensuring that social media platforms tackle it effectively.
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said:
“The internet has transformed our lives for the better. It’s connected us and empowered us. But on the other side, tech firms haven’t been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms. Instead they have been left to mark their own homework.
We don't give it a second’s thought when we buckle our seat belts to protect ourselves when driving. Given all the risks online, it's only sensible we ensure similar basic protections for the digital age. If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms.
Since taking on the job I have listened to people in politics, wider society and industry and strengthened the Bill, so that we can achieve our central aim: to make the UK the safest place to go online.”
Recommendations and support
As the bill moves forward, it is important to know where you can go to for support to address some of these areas that are highlighted. In particular, the tackling of legal but harmful content can be supported through the use of the Report Harmful Content button which can be downloaded for free and installed on your website to direct users to report legal but harmful content online.
As well as directing users to the most common reporting advice, there is also a process where practitioners can review and potentially escalate content that has not been removed as hoped.
Alongside this, you can also keep on top of your cyber-security, data protection and training by taking a look at Edtesa Secure where there are a host of services to help you keep information and data more protected.