Insights Government publishes new guidance for tech companies to protect people online

The Government has published two collections of guidance to help tech companies better protect users online: (i) safety by design guidance, entitled “Online safety guidance if you own or manage an online platform”; and (ii) “A business guide for protecting children on your online platform”, which is a “one-stop shop” for businesses on child online safety.

The safety by design collection of guidance is particularly for start-ups and advises on safe platform design to protect users from online harms and prepare the business or organisation for future legislation.

The guidance advocates putting safety at the heart of platform design to minimise the risk of online harm occurring. It advises companies about providing an age-appropriate experience for children using tools such as age assurance and age verification methods. This includes encouraging adults to set services’ safety measures to high by default so they cannot be changed by children, recommending that firms make it easier for users to report harmful content or behaviour, and for companies to block high-risk search terms, for example around illegal terrorist content.

The “one stop shop” child safety collection of guidance is to help companies implement crucial safety measures for children users ahead of the Government’s forthcoming Online Safety Bill. Under the Bill tech firms will be required to assess the risks posed to people using their services and provide safer environments for users. The guidance is targeted at companies whose online platforms are used by children, such as social media or gaming platforms.

The guidance includes advice on how to protect children’s personal data, address abuse and encourage positive behaviour online, and how to tackle child sexual exploitation and abuse. It also recommends applying and actively enforcing minimum age limits and reporting child sexual exploitation and abuse. To read the Government’s press release in full and for links to the collections, click here.