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Ofcom gears up for Online Safety regulation

July 12, 2023

By Colin Mann

UK comms regulator Ofcom is seeking evidence on the research it will need to carry out to prepare its advice to Government on categorising regulated services under new Online Safety laws.

The Online Safety Bill will require certain online services such as social media sites, messaging apps and search engines to identify risks to people and have measures in place for protecting them from certain types of harm online. Ofcom will set out guidance and codes of practice on how companies can comply with their duties.

Websites and apps that are in scope will have to protect all their users in the UK from illegal content and, where applicable, protect children from certain online harms. Some services will be categorised as Category 1, 2A or 2B if they meet certain thresholds set out in secondary legislation by Government. These categorised services will be required to comply with additional requirements, including producing transparency reports.

Once the new laws are enacted, Ofcom will be required to carry out research to help advise Government on the thresholds it sets in secondary legislation. Ofcom will then produce a list of categorised services based on these thresholds.

Category 1 and 2B thresholds will be set by reference to user numbers and functionalities. Similarly Category 2A thresholds will include user numbers.

The call for evidence gives any interested parties the chance to provide Ofcom with information and evidence that it can consider when carrying out its research. Ofcom will publish another call for evidence later this year on the duties that will apply to categorised services.

In particular, Ofcom is seeking input from industry on how companies measure user numbers on the relevant user-to-user parts of their services. Ofcom says it recognises that each service is different and that what counts as a user might be different for different services. “It is important for us as a regulator to ensure our approach to categorisation is attuned to this,” it states. “We’re engaging openly with industry and other stakeholders at this early stage to ensure we get it right and that they have the opportunity to share their perspectives,” it adds.

Ofcom is inviting comments by 5pm on September 12th, 2023.


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