On 19 September 2023, the Online Safety Bill (the Bill) passed its final parliamentary debate and is now ready to receive Royal Assent.
Once the Bill receives Royal Assent it will become law with certain aspects of the Bill coming into effect immediately such as the formal appointment of Ofcom who, as the media regulator, will be given wide-ranging investigatory and enforcement powers.
In a public announcement on 19 September 2023, Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “Today is a major milestone in the mission to create a safer life online for children and adults in the UK. Everyone at Ofcom feels privileged to be entrusted with this important role, and we’re ready to start implementing these new laws. Very soon after the Bill receives Royal Assent, we’ll consult on the first set of standards that we’ll expect tech firms to meet in tackling illegal online harms, including child sexual exploitation, fraud and terrorism.”
A date for Royal Assent is yet to be scheduled.
However, in March 2023, Ofcom published a roadmap outlining that it will publish its guidance and codes in three phases of consultations following Royal Assent:
- Phase 1: illegal harms duties.
- Phase 2: child safety duties and pornography; and
- Phase 3: transparency, user empowerment, and other duties on categorised platforms (being Category 1, 2A or 2B services that meet certain thresholds yet to be set out in secondary legislation made by the Government).
The road map indicates that Ofcom will commence with Phase 1 within 100 days of Royal Assent with Phase 2 and 3 to follow. However, owing to earlier Parliamentary delays in June 2023 Ofcom announced that it now hopes to be able do this more quickly with the publication of the first draft guidance for risk assessments and Codes of Practice covering illegal harms duties now expected within weeks of Royal Assent. This will assist businesses in understanding what they need to do to comply with their duties in relation to any in scope services.
Like to hear more on this topic?
We have previously written about the Online Safety Bill here:
- The return of the Online Safety Bill, Ally Clark, Duncan Calow (dlapiper.com)
- Further amendments to the Online Safety Bill not ruled out: Parliament battling over the scope and detail of the Online Safety Bill, Ally Clark, Duncan Calow (dlapiper.com)
- Online Safety Bill arrives at the House of Lords, Ally Clark, Duncan Calow (dlapiper.com)
- Online Safety Bill passed by the House of Lords, Ally Clark, Duncan Calow (dlapiper.com)