What you need to know about the UK’s Online Safety Bill

Posted on July 28, 2022 in News.

Boy with headphones studying with a laptop

What’s the UK’s Online Safety Bill?

The UK’s Online Safety Bill (OSB) aims to hand power from Big Tech companies to ordinary users, holding platforms to account on racist hate, dangerous misinformation and harms to children while giving users more rights on free speech and transparency.

How would it work?

The Online Safety Bill would force social media companies and search engines to come clean with users about what they are doing to keep them safe and protect their free speech.

That means they would need to be more open and upfront about what their content rules are and risk assessments they make about bad content on their platform. The Bill would set out a framework to:

  • Ensure platforms act on content we already consider illegal in the offline world. The Bill will do this by forcing platforms to put systems in place to keep their users safe from criminal fraud, racial harassment, threats to kill, stalking, sexual exploitation and more.
  • Ensure big platforms are honest with users about other harmful content. For too long, platforms have been allowed to tell users that they deal with harmful hate, misinformation and abuse while doing nothing about it. The Bill would change this by forcing platforms to be transparent about what action they take on harmful content.
  • Introduce important protections for children. Platforms likely to be accessed by kids will be forced to design their systems with child safety in mind, helping to protect them from damaging sexual abuse, self-harm and eating disorder content.
  • Introduce new protections for free speech. Instead of giving Big Tech absolute power over what content is or isn’t allowed on their platforms, the Bill would hand power back to users by forcing big platforms to apply their rules consistently and giving users a right to appeal over moderation decisions.
Cover of the OSB

The Bill will achieve all this by regulating platforms not users or their posts. If companies fail to comply with their new duties, the media regulator Ofcom will have the power to impose fines of up to £18 million or 10% of global annual revenue.

What the Bill isn’t

The Bill will protect free speech, not restrict it. Right now, Big Tech has absolute power over decisions about what you can and can’t say online. The Online Safety Bill would change that by forcing big platforms to apply their rules consistently and giving users a right to appeal over moderation decisions.

The Bill’s new regulations won’t criminalize users or their posts. The Online Safety Bill is all about regulating Big Tech platforms, not the people who use them. The regulator won’t make content that users post illegal – instead, it introduces legal penalties for Big Tech companies that deliberately mislead us about failures to keep users safe.

Why should we care?

Social media companies are putting profit before people, maximizing the money they make from users like us without doing the bare minimum to keep us safe. That affects all of us, contributing to problems from racist abuse, to dangerous health misinformation to self-harm and eating disorder content that can ruin young people’s lives.

The UK’s Online Safety Bill has the potential to change the balance.

The UK’s Online Safety Bill has the potential to change the balance, by introducing penalties for social media companies that fail to do the bare minimum to be honest with their users and keep them safe. That’s a new incentive to put people’s safety before ever-growing profits.

How you can get involved

The Bill needs improvements but is an important step forward in making the internet a safer place for all users. 

CCDH will be campaigning alongside others to support and strengthen this critical Bill, ensuring the UK government delivers on their manifesto promise to make the internet safer for everyone. 

Sign up today to be the first to learn about the Bill and its way forward.

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