The Online Safety Bill: Keeping UK Citizens Safe

Julia Esgate Christmas

The Online Safety Bill is the UK government's commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while also defending free speech and expression. The bill has been edited and adapted over the past year since its initial draft publication in May 2021, and reflects the outcome of extensive Parliamentary scrutiny. 


What does the online safety bill entail?

The Online Safety Bill aims to make the internet safer for users. It was drafted in order to ensure that UK citizens can use the internet safely, without fear of being bullied or harassed online. 

How does it work? 

The bill seeks to do this by making it illegal for websites, apps and service providers (e.g., Facebook) to host content that is deemed harmful or offensive. This would include anything from cyberbullying and to viral videos containing nudity and sex scenes as well as extreme violence against animals or people. The law also targets websites which are used as a platform for hate speech; these sites will be required to remove any content posted on them within 24 hours upon notification from the relevant authorities about its illegality under local laws. 

User safety

One of the primary benefits of the Online Safety Bill is its ability to help protect users from online harm. With this Bill, the UK government can better equip internet users with tools that will let them better protect themselves from cyberbullying, cybercrime and harassment. The bill will also make it easier for parents to monitor their children's activities on social media platforms and ensure that their children are safe at all times.

Vulnerable users   

Vulnerable users are those who may be at risk of harm or abuse online. These people include: 

  • Children and young people - The age range for children includes pre-school, primary school, secondary school, college and university students. This is a wide range of ages and so it can be difficult to define exactly what constitutes a child or young person. There are also different definitions in different countries, but the guidelines below should help you decide whether your user falls into one of these categories. 

  • Vulnerable adults - People who lack capacity to make decisions about their own safety online might need some help from others around them to make sure that they are safe when using the internet. For example, if someone has dementia or learning disabilities then this could affect their ability to use technology safely or independently which may put them at risk digitally (and also in other areas). If you think any of your users might fall into this category, then it’s important that you take steps now to ensure your site is up to scratch before the bill develops further.

Journalism, media, and freedom of speech

Despite the importance of muting explicit content and protecting UK citizens, freedom of speech and media helps ensure that citizens are informed about issues in their country and around the world. 

The Internet has helped promote these rights by giving everyone—including journalists—a platform to share information with others. It also allows people who may not have had access to resources such as newspapers or television stations before now publish articles online. Despite this, the nature of legal but harmful content is subjective, and therefore poses even further questions to the online safety bill and stricter legislation. 

However, some governments use digital tools like censorship software to limit access to content they don't agree with or find offensive. For example: if someone shares something online that criticizes their government's policies then they might get punished by being arrested for this crime called "disseminating false information." The online safety bill must ensure it treads the line carefully to ensure freedom of speech is not compromised for UK citizens and media.  

Ultimately, the online safety bill is an important step toward ensuring users’ safety and privacy online. It has the potential to impact how we interact with technology and each other for years to come, so we need to be sure that it is constantly monitored and improved alongside ever-changing technology. 

If you’re interested in finding out more about the current online safety bill, then join us at the Cyber Security & Data Protection Summit, find out more here.