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UK Online Safety Bill

The UK government recently published ground-breaking legislation – the draft Online Safety Bill.

The joint commitee formed of MPs and Lords to scrutinize the Bill before it is formally presented to Parliament summarises its content:

The draft Bill would establish Ofcom as an independent regulator of providers of online services where users can generate and share content or search content. Ofcom would oversee a statutory duty of care on these providers. To be compliant with their duties, providers would be required to set up systems and processes to reduce the presence of illegal content and activity, and content and activity that may harm children. A small number of high-risk high-reach user-to-user services would additionally have to reduce the presence of content that is legal but may harm adults. Ofcom would have the power to impose penalties of £18 million or 10% of qualifying worldwide revenue on non-compliant providers.

This draft follows extensive consultation and a White Paper on Online Harms to which the government responded in December 2020

The Bill will create a number of new duties for websites, apps and other online services  which allow for user-to-user interactions,  as well  as extending to search engines.

We created a short presentation explaining the main provisions of the Bill in relation to age verification for our Members, and decided to make this available on our website.  You should of course take your own legal advice on the implications of this legislation, and keep in mind it may evolve during its passage through Parliament.

AVPA Online Safety Bill 13-5-2021 Summary

The AVPA favours amendments to this Bill to:

  • Extend its scope to cover commercial pornographic sites, even if they do not allow for user-to-user services by adding a third category of sites which include content designated as harmful ‘priority content’ by Parliament.
  • Allow for an enforcement regime that can deal with the scale of adult content sites (over a million)
  • Ensure the Limited Services exemption does not become a loophole for harmful sites.