The United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill has officially received royal assent, becoming law.
The act’s primary mission is to combat several specific online harms, including underage access to explicit content, addressing the issue of “anonymous trolls,” cracking down on scam advertisements, preventing the nonconsensual sharing of intimate deepfakes, and curbing the dissemination of child sexual abuse material and terrorism-related content.
The act reportedly represents the government’s endeavour to transform the nation into “the safest place in the world to be online.” And now that it is law, online platforms will not be required to immediately comply with all their duties outlined in the act. The responsibility of enforcing these rules falls under the U.K. telecoms regulator, Ofcom, which has outlined a three-phase implementation roadmap.
The initial phase focuses on how platforms should respond to illegal content, such as terrorism and child sexual abuse material. Ofcom will release a consultation containing proposals for handling these duties on November 9th.
Subsequent phases two and three delve into the obligations surrounding child safety, preventing underage access to explicit content, generating transparency reports, mitigating scam advertisements, and providing “empowerment tools” to grant users greater control over the content they encounter.
The act empowers Ofcom to impose substantial fines, with companies facing penalties of up to £18 million (approximately $22 million) or 10 percent of their global annual turnover, whichever is higher. Furthermore, company executives could face legal consequences, including imprisonment.