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Online Safety Bill summary

The Online Safety Bill, recently approved by Parliament, represents an unprecedented overhaul in how the online world is regulated in the UK. It aims to make social media companies and other online technology platforms more accountable for creating a safer internet and providing clear and accessible ways to report harmful and illegal online content, especially for children and young people. It will require organisations to enforce strict measures, like age restrictions.

In addition, Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, will ensure compliance with the new rules and can impose penalties for violations. Fines can be up to 10% of a company’s global annual revenue.

The legislation will apply to any site accessed from the UK regardless of where the site is based.

This article provides an Online Safety Bill summary and outlines the bill’s key components and provisions. Concerns have been raised regarding potential impacts on free speech, privacy, and the protection of children are also examined. The article also looks at the implications and importance of the bill for schools are discussed, in terms of prioritising online safety education and updating policies.

What’s in the Online Safety Bill

In this Online Safety Bill summary we explore the key provisions in the bill intended to make online platforms safer, especially for younger users.

  • A legal duty of care – Social media and online technology platforms (including search engines, messaging apps, some online games and cloud storage sites) must protect users from harmful content that could encourage abuse or trauma. They must also proactively limit the spread of illegal and harmful material.
  • Tackling online harm – These organisations need to prevent access to various harmful content and consider safety issues in their design and operations. Content includes
    • Pornographic material
    • Fraudulent advertising
    • Anonymous trolling
    • Cyberflashing (sending unsolicited sexual images to others online)
    • Online harassment and abuse
    • Terrorism
    • Disinformation
    • Content that may encourage self-destructive behaviour, such as glorifying suicide, self-harm or eating disorder.
  • An Independent Regulator – Ofcom will monitor compliance and punish violations.
  • Transparency and reporting – These organisations must openly assess dangers to child safety and describe their online safety risk mitigation efforts, including producing regular transparency reports. They must also report child exploitation content to the National Crimes Agency.
  • Age verification and privacy settings – Strict age checks will be added to the online technology platform and privacy settings must be set by default to high levels of protection, especially for young users..A display showing different privacy controls
  • Educational resources – Platforms will be required to provide guidelines and tools on online safety. These resources will be helpful for children so they have the knowledge to recognise online risks and engage in responsible online usage.

Concerns About the UK Online Safety Bill

While the Online Safety Bill aims to enhance online safety, this Online Safety Bill summary also explores the concerns that have been raised about potential downsides:

  • Some believe the broad definitions of harmful content could infringe on free speech rights.
  • The workability of age verification systems has also been questioned since they raise privacy issues and may not be technically feasible to implement.
  • Additionally, some critics argue the bill does not go far enough in its protections for children. They point to possible gaps around the effectiveness of the response to child abuse, weaknesses in proposed child safety duties, and whether enforcement measures will be strong enough.Two children looking at laptops and electronic devices

These opposing views highlight the inherent complexities of regulating the vast, borderless digital landscape while trying to safeguard user rights. Any legislation addressing such a multifaceted issue requires nuanced solutions capable of balancing safety and freedom of expression. Determining the right approach remains a matter of ongoing debate among different stakeholders.

Online implications of the bill for schools

In this Online Safety Bill summary, we next consider the influence the bill will have on online safety and what schools may need to consider and act upon.

With its enhanced focus on protecting children online, schools will be expected to continue prioritising online safety within their curriculum to equip students with the knowledge and skills to navigate the digital world responsibly.

Training teachers on the bill’s provisions and how to effectively convey them will also be crucial. Overall, while the bill places more accountability on technology platforms, schools have a vital role to play in realising its child safety goals through robust educational programs, policy updates to align with any new legal duties or guidance from the bill, leveraging reporting tools, and maintaining open communication channels with all stakeholders. This will require dedicated leadership, resources, and vigilance as the online landscape continues to rapidly evolve.

Schools will also be potentially able to utilise the strengthened reporting systems mandated by the bill to address online incidents involving students more efficiently.

Ongoing collaboration with parents, students, and technology companies will remain integral to ensuring a comprehensive understanding of risks and prevention strategies.

Two school boys looking at a lap top

Online Safety Bill summary – A conclusion

The Online Safety Bill represents a historic attempt to implement comprehensive regulations for the online landscape, with the priority of protecting children from harm. However, putting such an expansive set of rules into practice will require nuanced solutions capable of balancing safety with concerns around free speech, privacy and practical feasibility. While the bill faces valid criticism on these fronts, its overarching goals have strong merit in light of ongoing digital threats.

This Online Safety Bill summary emphasises that it will require a collaborative effort between the government, technology companies, schools, parents, and children for it to work effectively. Schools in particular have a crucial role to play in continuing online safety education, updating policies, leveraging reporting tools and engaging all stakeholders. If implemented thoughtfully, the Online Safety Bill has the potential to drive positive change in making the Internet a safer place, especially for younger users. But this will depend on thoughtful application of the bill rather than blind adherence. As the digital world continues to rapidly evolve, maintaining an open, evidence-based approach will be key to balancing safety and freedom in the future.

A group of adults discussing something around a computer.

Interested in Online Safety Training?

Our Online Safety Training course is for anybody who works in education and wants to learn about the risks and challenges posed by the digital world, particularly social media. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of potential online dangers and learn effective strategies for managing incidents.

Do get in touch with us on 01327 636989, email us at hello@smarthorizons.co.uk or use the online contact form on our website if you need help choosing the correct online safety or safeguarding course.

  • Online Safety