Advanced Television

Ofcom progresses online child protection work

January 10, 2023

By Colin Mann

UK comms regulator Ofcom is seeking evidence on risks of harms to children online and how they can be mitigated, as it prepares to develop codes of practice in our forthcoming role as online safety regulator.

Within the first 100 days of its online safety powers taking effect, Ofcom will publish and consult on draft codes of practice and guidance on the first phase of the new regulation – protecting users from illegal harms online. In 2022, it published a call for evidence on these first phase areas.

Shortly after secondary legislation passes to define priority content that is legal but harmful to children, Ofcom will consult on draft codes of practice and guidance setting out the steps platforms can take to protect children online, as well as draft guidance on how platforms should assess risks of harms to children.

Ofcom is calling for evidence on this phase of online safety regulation, including: child access assessments; child risk assessments; preventing children accessing pornography; and protecting children from harmful content.

Ofcom’s call for evidence will remain open until 5pm on March 21st, 2023. It would like to hear from those with an expertise in protecting children online, and providers of online services.

Ofcom has also launched an enforcement programme into the age assurance measures of UK adult sites, under its current powers to regulate video-sharing platforms (VSPs) established in the UK.

These platforms are already required by law to take measures to protect people using their sites and apps from harmful videos.

In October 2022, it published a report highlighting its concerns that small UK-based adult sites may not have robust measures in place to prevent children accessing pornography. It warned that if the adult sites it currently regulates did not have in place a clear plan for introducing robust age assurance measures over the next year, they could face enforcement action.

Ofcom is also concerned that some UK adult sites may not have notified us that they fall within its jurisdiction. Accordingly, Ofcom is reviewing the wider UK adult VSP sector to identify whether there are other platforms that may be in scope of its current regime and may not have sufficient measures in place to protect children from pornographic content.

Ofcom’s enforcement programme will examine the scale of potential compliance concerns in the sector. It will then determine whether any further action – including formal investigations – is required.

It expects to provide a progress update after four months.

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