'Pivotal moment' as Online Safety Act gains Royal Assent

Published:  Thu 26 Oct 2023

The Internet Watch Foundation has heralded a “pivotal moment” in online safety as new laws to help make the internet safer for children are adopted in the UK.

Today (October 26), the Online Safety Act received Royal Assent in the Houses of Parliament, putting rules designed to make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online” into law.

The Act places legal responsibility on tech companies to prevent and remove illegal content, including child sexual abuse material. Failure to comply with the rules could incur significant fines.

Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, welcomed the new legislation, and said the IWF is now looking forward to working with the UK’s communications regulator Ofcom to help make the provisions of the law a reality.

Ms Hargreaves said: “We are delighted that this vital piece of legislation, which has been four long years in the making, is now an Act of Parliament.

“It is a pivotal moment, and the result of years of hard work. At its core, the Online Safety Act is a real opportunity to protect children from the harms the internet can expose them to.

“We now look forward to working with the regulator Ofcom, and bringing our considerable knowledge and expertise in this area to bear.”

“But the hard work is really only just beginning. To truly make the internet a safer place, everyone needs to come together and play their part in implementing the legislation. We have seen how evolving threats like the emergence of AI-generated abuse imagery can strike.

“We also know abuse is getting more severe, and the victims are getting younger. It is essential that tech companies are proactive in assessing and understanding the potential risks on their platforms, and taking steps to make sure safety is designed in. We look forward to playing our part.”

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said: “At the heart of this Bill is the protection of children.

“I would like to thank the campaigners, parliamentarians, survivors of abuse and charities that have worked tirelessly, not only to get this Act over the finishing line, but to ensure that it will make the UK the safest place to be online in the world.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “This landmark law sends a clear message to criminals – whether it’s on our streets, behind closed doors or in far flung corners of the internet, there will be no hiding place for their vile crimes.

“The Online Safety Act’s strongest protections are for children. Social media companies will be held to account for the appalling scale of child sexual abuse occurring on their platforms and our children will be safer.

“We are determined to combat the evil of child sexual exploitation wherever it is found, and this Act is a big step forward.”

Companies looking to make sure their platforms are compliant with the provisions set out in the new legislation can join the Internet Watch Foundation as Members to make sure they are doing their part to help make sure the internet becomes a safer place for everyone.

Find out more here or contact our team directly at [email protected].

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