Parents have been assured that the Online Safety Bill will not only hold social media companies accountable for illegal content on their platforms but also any material that may be.” cause serious injury” to children.
In an open letter, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan sought to assuage concerns that the long-delayed law has been eased. after finally returning to parliament.
The proposed law – which aims to regulate online content to help keep users, especially children safe, and hold companies accountable for content – was amended due to concerns about the its impact on freedom of speech.
It has been tweaked to remove the responsibility of social media sites to take down “legitimate but harmful” material, which has been criticized by free speech campaigners.
Instead, social media platforms will be created to provide tools to mask certain content – including content that doesn’t meet the criminal threshold but could be harmful.
This includes eating disorder content, which a Sky News investigation was found to be suggestable through TikTok’s suggested search function, although not explicitly looking for harmful content..
Writing to parents, carers and guardians, Ms Donelan said: “We have seen too many innocent childhoods destroyed by this kind of content and I am determined to put measures in place. This important protection for your children and loved ones gets into the law as quickly as possible.”
What’s in the Online Safety Bill?
The letter outlines six measures the bill would take to crack down on social media platforms:
• Remove illegal content, including child sexual abuse and terrorist content
• Protect children from harmful and inappropriate content, such as cyberbullying or promoting eating disorders
• Place liability on companies to enforce their own age limits, most of which are 13
• Require companies to use age checks to protect children from inappropriate content
• Posts that promote self-harm will be illegal
• Companies will be required to publish risk assessments of potential hazards to children on their websites.
Ms Donelan said if companies were found short, they would face fines of up to £1 billion and could see their websites blocked in the UK.
The updated law comes as platforms fight similar online child safety laws in the US state of California, which mandate age verification of users.
NetChoice, an industry group that includes Meta and TikTok among its members, is suing over what it says is an attempt to get “online service providers to act as roving internet censors at the behest of its members.” gorvernment’s”.
What did critics say about the Online Safety Bill?
Ian Russell told Sky News: “I’m worried – the removal of an entire clause is very difficult to see in other terms.
“There were promises from the secretary of state that the bill was reinforced on provisions to ensure child safety, but the bill was changed in other ways.
“If children find their way around the dam and into the adult area, I wonder what will happen.”