Newsflash: Online Safety Bill becomes an Act

The much-debated Online Safety Bill received Royal Assent on 26 October 2023, so it is now the Online Safety Act 2023.

The Act imposes obligations on online services allowing content-sharing between users (such as social media, photo and video-sharing services, messaging platforms and gaming platforms), and also search engines. Organisations offering these services have duties to protect against illegal and harmful content, including carrying out assessments in relation to the risks of illegal content, and the risks of harm to children. Larger providers will have additional duties, including giving adults control over their exposure to certain content, and the ability to filter out content from non-verified users. There are also requirements relating to the content and enforcement of terms of service.

Penalties for non-compliance can be up to £18m or 10% of annual turnover.

However, these obligations are not yet in force. The next steps are for OFCOM (which will regulate the Act) to prepare guidance and Codes of Practice on how organisations may comply with the requirements. OFCOM has indicated that it will publish its first consultation on these matters on 9 November 2023. The plan is a phased approach to bringing the provisions into force over the next couple of years.

The Online Safety Act 2023 is available here.

Olivia Whitcroft, principal of OBEP, 2 November 2023

This article provides general information on the subject matter and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. If you would like to discuss this topic, please contact Olivia Whitcroft using the contact details set out here: Contact Details