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Government launches new online safety bill in bid to protect users from harmful content online

The online safety bill marks a milestone in the government’s fight to protect young people online against harmful content and activity such as racist hate crimes, terrorist material, and financial fraud on social media and dating apps. The government hopes that this bill will bring with it a new era of accountability on tech and social media firms to be more vigilant when it comes to their user-generated content.

Unfortunately, the benefits of technology and the internet have long been overshadowed by the negative effects that come with it.

Although consumption of online content is at an all-time high, "over three-quarters of UK adults are concerned about going online, and fewer parents feel the benefits outweigh the risks of their children being online – falling from 65 percent in 2015 to 55 percent in 2019." The new bill is an attempt to rectify this issue and ensure a safer online world for all users.

The bill will tackle the following issues:

  • Social media sites, apps, websites and other online services that allow users to talk to one another online must put in measures to remove and limit harmful content such as child sexual abuse, suicide content, and terrorist material.
  • New measures will be put in place to protect people’s right to express themselves freely online, whist also protecting journalism and democratic political debate.
  • Further action will be taken to address online fraud such as romantic fraud on dating apps, which has seen many people manipulated out of large sums of money.
  • Ofcom will hold powers to fine companies that are failing to adhere to the necessary duty of care by up to £18million or 10% of annual global turnover; whichever amount is larger. They can also block access to the perpetrating sites.
  • If tech firms don’t step up their efforts to improve safety, a new criminal offence for senior managers may be put in place as a deferred power.

The goal of the bill is to protect the threat content online poses to young people and the most vulnerable in our society.

It is hoped that this new bill will bring in a new and welcomed era whereby content that would not be accessible offline, will also not be permitted online, creating a safe space for all users.

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