What is the Draft Online Safety Bill 2021?
A new regulatory framework will tackle digital harmful content, by:
- Introducing new measures to uphold freedom of expression and democratic debate online.
- Protecting people against fake investment opportunities and so-called ‘social media romance scams’.
- Safeguarding young children and clamping down on cases of online racial abuse.
The government’s manifesto included a commitment to making the United Kingdom one of the safest places in the world to be online.
As such, one of the key objectives behind the draft Online Safety Bill 2021 is defending ‘freedom of expression’.
Some described it as a ‘watershed moment’ when cabinet ministers added several new measures to the Bill. The primary aim is to safeguard an ability to express our beliefs, ideas, and thoughts online.
Hence, being able to ensure key online protections means they will not result in any unnecessary censorship. We should view the draft Bill as a significant milestone in the fight to make the Internet a safe place to interact with others.
Nowadays, most people are using the Internet more than ever before. Nonetheless, more than 75% of UK adults express some concerns about going online.
Furthermore, in recent years more parents feel the risks of their children being online are outweighing many of the benefits.
Note: The main section contains more news stories about children and education (with archived material from previous years).
Accountability for Democratic Debate
So, what exactly is inside the draft Online Safety Bill? Among the most significant changes is one that should put an end to harmful practices.
Thus, it brings in a new era of accountability and protections to enhance democratic debate. On top of that, the Bill also includes:
- New laws to strengthen the rights for people to express themselves with freedom online. The same addition will protect democratic political debate as well as journalism in the United Kingdom.
- Provisions aimed at tackling some of the most common online scams (e.g. romance frauds that manipulate people into sending money to a fake identity on a dating app).
- The need to remove and limit the spread of illegal and harmful content (e.g. child sexual abuse, content that involves suicide, terrorist material) on:
- Internet services that host user-generated content.
- Services that allow people to chat with others online.
- Social media sites.
- Empowering Ofcom to block access to the sites of companies that fail in a new duty of care (or hand out a significant financial penalty). The fine can be the higher of £18 million (or 10%) of annual global turnover.
- The deferral of powers that could result in new criminal offences for senior managers (e.g. for tech firms that fail to improve their online safety features).
Note: A joint committee of MPs will scrutinise the draft Online Safety Bill before introducing a formal version to Parliament.
5 Elements of Online Safety Bill
There are five main goals of the Bill. It should create a fair, accountable system, and intends to become the most progressive in the world. The elements that make up the new landmark laws, include:
- Duty of care
- Democratic content
- Freedom of expression
- Journalistic content
- Online fraud
Note: The GOV.UK website has more information about the Online Safety Bill and how it should keep children safe, protect democracy, and stop racial hate online.