The Online Safety Act has today (26 October 2023) received Royal Assent, making the UK the safest place in the world to be online. The Act puts the onus on firms to protect children from legal but harmful material and gives the regulator, Ofcom, extra enforcement powers.
It introduces new rules such as requiring pornography sites to check the ages of viewers in order to stop children viewing content.
Platforms will also need to show they are committed to removing illegal content including:
- child sexual abuse
- controlling or coercive behaviour
- extreme sexual violence
- illegal immigration and people smuggling
- promoting or facilitating suicide
- promoting self-harm
- animal cruelty
- selling illegal drugs or weapons
Additional offences have been created, including cyber-flashing and the sharing of “deepfake” pornography, where Artificial Intelligence is used to insert someone’s likeness into pornographic material.
The act also includes measures to make it easier for bereaved parents to obtain information about their children from tech firms.
Failure to comply with the rules can result in significant fines that could reach billions of pounds. If tech firms don’t take the steps required by Ofcom to protect children, management teams could even face prison.
Ofcom will immediately begin work on tackling illegal content from today (26 October), with a consultation process launching on 9th November 2023. They will then take a phased approach to bringing the Online Safety Act into force, prioritising enforcing rules against the most harmful content as soon as possible.