The UK's Online Safety Act (OSA) has received Royal Assent with the majority of its provisions expected to come into force in two months' time.
This is the UK's approach to regulating online safety. It covers not only illegal user-generated online content but specified types of harmful content, particularly content harmful to children. Providers of user-to-user services and search services (as well as pornographic content service providers) will have to comply with a range of risk assessment, mitigation and safety duties.
During the OSA's passage through Parliament, the scope of regulated content narrowed and provisions to protect freedom of speech, privacy, journalistic content and content of democratic importance were strengthened.
Has the OSA got its approach right? It's hard to answer this until we see the codes of practice and guidance from Ofcom which will flesh out much of the detail around what compliance looks like. Ofcom estimates that thousands of businesses will be impacted by the OSA and those in scope will be relieved to hear that while Ofcom aims to be proactive about supervision, it is also focusing on being proportionate in its approach and targeted in its activities.
Understanding whether and to what extent you are in scope, assessing risk to users and putting in mitigation measures together with processes to comply with safety duties will be crucial. This is not least because Ofcom has new powers to issue fines of up to £18m or 10% of global turnover - whichever is higher - for non-compliance.
The UK is not the only country attempting to regulate the online environment. The EU's Digital Services Act (DSA), for example, covers similar but different ground. Unlike the OSA, the DSA focuses only on illegal intermediary content and does not regulate harmful but legal content. Businesses impacted by both sets of legislation will face a particularly complex set of compliance challenges.
We will be publishing detailed analysis of the OSA shortly but, for now, get your head around the (extremely lengthy) main provisions using our handy summary.