Insights UK Online Safety Bill signed off by both Houses of Parliament


The Online Safety Bill has now been signed off by both Houses of Parliament and will become law as soon as it receives Royal Assent which, according to reports, is expected soon.

Once the Bill becomes law, Ofcom, the regulator under the new law, will begin publishing for consultation the various Codes of Practice and Guidance identified in the Bill. Ofcom indicated in the summer that these are likely to come in stages and not all at once. The first Codes to be published are likely to be those setting out the measures in-scope businesses can take to mitigate the risk of illegal harm, followed by Codes relating to the protection of children. Ofcom has previously issued Calls for Evidence on the Codes it is required to produce relating to illegal harms and on the protection of children from legal content that is harmful. When published, the Codes will provide a safe harbour for in-scope services as they will be treated as compliant with the relevant duty if they have adopted the steps recommended by the Code.

Ofcom also indicated in the summer that, following Royal Assent, it will also start to publish Guidance and other information relating to risk profiles, the conduct of risk assessments, identification of illegal content, record keeping, enforcement and guidance relating to the transparency reporting obligations that must be followed by services that fall within certain categories to be defined under the new law (see below).

A certain proportion of regulated services will be designated category 1, 2A or 2B if they meet certain thresholds to be set out secondary legislation by the Government after the Bill becomes law. These are likely to be the largest online user generated content platforms. These services will be subject to additional obligations under the bill relating to transparency reporting, user empowerment tools, operating in line with terms of service and the prevention of fraudulent advertising. Once the Bill becomes law, Ofcom will advise the Government on these thresholds so that they can pass the secondary legislation. Ofcom has indicated there will be future Calls for Evidence in respect of the thresholds and the Codes and Guidance relating to the special duties that fall on categorised services.

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