Government responds to Joint Committee’s recommended improvements to Online Safety Bill
17 March 2022
The Government has responded to the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill’s report and introduced the Bill into the House of Commons.
Following months of work from the Joint Committee, the Government has agreed to make changes to the new law. It says in its response that it has adopted 66 of the Joint Committee’s recommendations.
- Government response to the report of the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill
- Online Safety Bill as introduced into Parliament
- Online Safety Bill: supporting documents
Damian Collins MP, who chaired the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill, said:
“This is a huge moment for the safety of all internet users. The UK is leading the world with legislation to finally hold social media companies for the offences that take place on their platforms, like hate speech, fraud, terrorism, and child abuse.
“The Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill set out a clear list of recommendations back in December, on how to make the Bill stronger, whilst also protecting freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.
“I’m very glad to see that the Government has adopted so many of our recommendations, ensuring we really will make the UK the safest place to be online in the world. The era of self-regulation for Big Tech has finally come to an end."
From July to December 2021, the Joint Committee on the draft Online Safety Bill read over 200 pieces of written evidence, and took over 50 hours of oral testimony, from witnesses including footballer Rio Ferdinand, whistle-blowers Frances Haugen and Sophie Zhang, Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa, Molly Russell’s father Ian Russell, and Secretary of State Nadine Dorries.
The Committee published their landmark report, over 190 pages long, on 14 December 2021.
Changes to the Bill
Changes the Government has said it will make in response to the Joint Committee’s report include:
- The Bill will list the existing offences that social media platforms will have a proactive duty to mitigate: these will include hate crime, encouraging or assisting suicide, offences relating to revenge and extreme pornography, harassment and stalking, and incitement to and threats of violence.
- The Government will introduce new communications offences in the Bill, including cyberflashing (sending an unsolicited sexual image via social media or data sharing services).
- The most high-risk social media companies will be required to prevent fraud, including in paid-for ads.
- Pornography websites will be legally obliged to prevent underage access, regardless of whether they host user-generated content or not.
- Users of the most high-risk social media platforms will have more control over whether they continue to see anonymous content.
- Whistle-blowers will have a route to legal protections in the UK if they share their concerns with Ofcom.