After years of delay, the long-awaited yet controversial Online Safety Bill received Royal Assent on 26 October and has now become law.
This landmark legislation, aimed at making the UK the ‘safest place in the world to be online,’ is designed to protect both children and adults. It imposes new legal duties on big tech companies and service providers to regulate their platforms and to identify and remove illegal or harmful content.
The Bill tackles, among other things, image-based abuse; trolling and bullying; illegal material and encrypted messages. This is perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Bill as it will force messaging services, such as WhatsApp, to end encryption of messages.
Communications regulator Ofcom will be largely responsible for enforcing the Bill, and tech companies and services providers which don’t comply could face large fines of up to £18 million or 10 per cent of their global annual revenue, whichever is higher. In some cases, if platforms consistently fail to protect children, tech executives could personally face criminal charges.
Speaking about the Bill when it officially passed in September, technology minister Michelle Donelan explained: “The Online Safety Bill is a game-changing piece of legislation… this government is taking an enormous step forward in our mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.”
If you need advice relating to the Online Safety Bill, please get in touch.