Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : Support for Online Safety Act as rules making UK the safest place in the world to be online become law [October 2023]

The press release issued by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology on 27 October 2023.

Raft of voices below have thrown their support behind Act protecting children from online harm, while empowering adults with more choices over what they see online.

Overwhelming support for Online Safety Act as rules making UK the safest place in the world to be online become law

The Online Safety Bill yesterday (Thursday 26 October) received Royal Assent, heralding a new era of internet safety and choice by placing world-first legal duties on social media platforms.

The new laws take a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children from online harm, while empowering adults with more choices over what they see online. This follows rigorous scrutiny and extensive debate in Parliament.

A raft of voices below have thrown their support behind the Act, ranging from groups representing children’s voices, women’s rights and consumer rights.

Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition said:

Along with survivors, other experts and over 100,000 members of the public, we called for the Online Safety Bill to tackle and prevent violence against women and girls. We welcome this landmark new guidance for tech companies to reduce harm to women and girls online, which is a step in the right direction for tackling this abuse. But we also know that implementation and enforcement is key if we are to address the rapid spread of misogyny and online abuse, and we will work with government and Ofcom to ensure it is as robust as possible and well enforced.

Lynn Perry MBE, Chief Executive of Barnardo’s, said:

We’re delighted that the Online Safety Bill has received royal assent and will now become law. This is an important first step towards making the UK the safest place for a child to be online.

Through our frontline work across the UK, we support children whose mental health and understanding of healthy relationships are damaged by what they see online. We welcome how this bill places a duty on pornography sites to verify that users are over 18 which will help to stop children from viewing this type of harmful content.

There is much more work to be done here and we will continue to work with the government on implementing this legislation, the forthcoming review into pornography and ensuring we keep ahead of emerging online threats, such as AI, to protect our children.

William Perrin, a trustee at Carnegie UK, said:

The new Online Safety Act will bring social media companies in line with other industries by introducing a regulatory regime designed to reduce harm, particularly to children and other vulnerable groups.

An exceptionally broad coalition of more than 50 charity and civil society organisations have played a vital role in making these new laws a reality. The number of bodies making the case for these changes shows that our previous approach to social media regulation hasn’t been working and put too many people in harm’s way.

While the implementation of this new regulation will clearly be key to its success, UK lawmakers deserve credit for taking action to protect our collective wellbeing.

Imran Ahmed, CEO and founder of the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), said:

The Center for Countering Digital Hate welcomes the Online Safety Act – a momentous step towards a safer digital world.

The Online Safety Act ensures social media platforms are held responsible for the content they host, requiring platforms to remove illegal content, protect child users and empower adults with choice over the content they see. It is now up to the regulator Ofcom to enact a robust regime of oversight and enforcement alongside which CCDH will continue to advocate for an online world free from hate and disinformation.

Baroness Kidron, Chair of 5Rights Foundation:

I am delighted that the Online Safety Bill is now law. I congratulate the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology and pay tribute to the many organisations and individuals that have played a part, in particular the broad coalition of children’s charities and the Bereaved Families for Online Safety. The wisdom and advocacy of these groups has made for a much better law.

The mantel of responsibility for child online safety now falls firmly on the shoulders of the tech sector who under the watchful gaze Ofcom must use the Act to make meaningful changes to children’s online experiences.

This is just one small step toward building the digital world children deserve.

Rocio Concha, Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, said:

Which? led the campaign for consumers to have stronger protections against scam adverts on social media platforms and search engines that can have devastating financial and emotional consequences for victims. These new Online Safety laws are a major step forward in the fight back against fraud by forcing tech firms to step up and take more responsibility for stopping people being targeted by fraudulent online adverts.

Ofcom must now develop codes of practice that will hold platforms to a high standard and be prepared to take strong enforcement action, including fines, against firms if they break the law.

Marc Allera, CEO BT’s Consumer brands, said:

We welcome this new legislation and hope it marks a turning point in improving safety and raising standards of behaviour online. From 5G misinformation to the way social media can perpetuate violence against women and girls, online harms have real world consequences. It’s great to see the UK leading on this and we hope others will follow.

Oliver Chantler, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at The Mental Health Foundation, said:

The Online Safety Act is hugely welcome and will help protect people’s mental health across the UK.

The online world can be a great source of support and help to people who are struggling, but as the government has recognised, it can also expose users to material which can be incredibly harmful to their mental health, including promoting eating disorders and self-harm.

This new legislation takes a proportionate approach, by giving people the tools to stay safe online and control their experience, and clamping down on the most dangerous content that is a risk to public health.

Kick It Out chair Sanjay Bhandari, speaking on behalf of English football organisations, said:

Online abuse in football has risen significantly in recent years, but new laws passed by the government should offer some hope to all those who participate in football. Change will take time, but it’s a big step in the right direction to make everyone in football feel safer online.

Ellen Miller, Interim CEO of Refuge, said:

After 2 years of tireless campaigning, Refuge is pleased to see that the Online Safety Bill has been granted Royal Assent.

We are glad that the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, have listened to us and other organisations in the Violence Against Women and Girls sector and that the Bill now contains specific protections for women and girls.

We are pleased to see coercive and controlling behaviour recognised as a priority offence in the Act This means social media platforms are required to respond to these abusive behaviours and take steps towards preventing them from being able to happen in the first place.

After campaigning alongside other organisations to get a ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Code of Practice’ in the Bill, including in our report “Marked as Unsafe”, Refuge welcomed the amendment requiring legislators Ofcom to publish guidance for social media platforms to make online spaces safer for women and girls. These guidelines will make it so that social media companies must make the safety of women and girls on their platforms a higher priority.

It is our hope that the protections included in the Act, will allow women and girls to exist online safely, without abuse.