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Online Safety Bill introduced to Parliament

The Government has introduced its long-awaited Online Safety Bill to Parliament. 

It follows a long legislative process since an Online Harms White Paper was first introduced to Parliament under Theresa May’s leadership in 2019.

Further additions have been made to the Bill, responding to recommendations from a legislative committee report in December 2021. 

These include some significant updates:

  • Porn sites will be legally required to verify users’ ages – something we have been calling for since the previous draft of the Bill was published.

  • Cases of child sexual exploitation and abuse content must by law be reported by online platforms to the National Crime Agency (NCA). This is in line with our call for the ‘duty of care’ for tech companies to be made more explicit.

  • Cyberflashing will become a criminal offence.

  • Criminal liability for senior managers within tech firms will come into effect two months after the Bill comes into force, rather than two years previously suggested. 

  • “Legal but harmful” content will be defined by the government, rather than requiring social media companies to base this on their own risk assessments.

The Bill will be debated by Parliament at a later date.

Time for scrutiny

This is another step towards the Government’s long-term ambition to make the UK “the safest place in the world to go online”. 

We are certainly not there yet.

Parent Zone has been following the Bill’s progress to date – responding to the initial draft, and highlighting key issues that have been missed.

Previous drafts have failed to explicitly mention whether gaming will fall under the scope of the Bill, or to acknowledge the role of parents in protecting children online. 

We look forward to scrutinising this latest incarnation of the Bill to establish whether these important omissions we have long been calling for have been rectified.