Oral Evidence: Online Safety Bill
Subject: safety duties, encompassing anonymity, age verification and assurance
We today gave evidence at a roundtable event to the Joint Committee undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Online Safety Bill. Below are our key points:
- Online Age Verification is the foundation of a safer internet for children through a general, well-regulated and convenient mechanism to allow online services to know the age or age-range of their users without users having to disclose their identity to the online services they access.
- The Bill’s scope is too narrow because it was designed to address only social media. Without amendment to the scope and altering a major exemption, pornographic websites can escape regulation entirely. To avoid this, Parliament should:
- Add a third category of sites in scope to include all sites with content considered harmful to children (with or without user-to-user services)
- Exclude sites in this new category from the “limited functionality services” exemption
- The Secretary of State should publish a draft list of Primary Priority and Priority Content to allow for meaningful scrutiny of the Bill in context.
- The Bill should regulate to promote an independent, privacy-protecting, standard based, open, competitive and interoperable age verification
- We support the integration of Baroness Kidron’s Age Assurance [Minimum Standards] Bill into this legislation
- We are leading the design of a European network to allow for interoperability – verify your age once and use it many times on many services
- Parliament should add a 6 month time limit for the laying before it of the suite of codes of conduct and statutory guidance to avoid the risk of 2-3 years delay while this is perfected by the Secretary of State and Ofcom.
- Enforcement powers should be amended to enable them to be applied at scale to 1.3 million adult websites without an individual application to the Court for each of them.