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Royal Assent given to Online Safety Act

Date:2 NOV 2023
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The Online Safety Act has received Royal Assent. The new laws take a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children from online harm, while providing adults with more choices over what they see online. This follows rigorous scrutiny and extensive debate within both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

The Act places legal responsibility on tech companies to prevent and rapidly remove illegal content, like terrorism and revenge pornography. They will also have to stop children seeing material that is harmful to them such as bullying, content promoting self-harm and eating disorders, and pornography.

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If they fail to comply with the rules, they will face significant fines that could reach billions of pounds, and if they don’t take steps required by Ofcom to protect children, their bosses could even face prison.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:

Today will go down as an historic moment that ensures the online safety of British society not only now, but for decades to come.

I am immensely proud of the work that has gone into the Online Safety Act from its very inception to it becoming law today. The Bill protects free speech, empowers adults and will ensure that platforms remove illegal content.

At the heart of this Bill, however, is the protection of children. I would like to thank the campaigners, parliamentarians, survivors of abuse and charities that have worked tirelessly, not only to get this Act over the finishing line, but to ensure that it will make the UK the safest place to be online in the world.

The Act takes a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children by making sure the buck stops with social media platforms for content they host. It does this by making sure they:

  • remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place, including content promoting self-harm
  • prevent children from accessing harmful and age-inappropriate content including pornographic content, content that promotes, encourages or provides instructions for suicide, self-harm or eating disorders, content depicting or encouraging serious violence or bullying content
  • enforce age limits and use age-checking measures on platforms where content harmful to children is published
  • ensure social media platforms are more transparent about the risks and dangers posed to children on their sites, including by publishing risk assessments
  • provide parents and children with clear and accessible ways to report problems online when they do arise

You can read more here.

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