Online safety bill – a step in the right direction

By Yuval Ben-Itzhak, President at Socialbakers. 

Announced as part of the Queen’s Speech, the UK government has outlined a draft legislation to improve internet safety, titled the Online Safety Bill. This bill is set to tackle harmful content online, including online trolling and misinformation.

Under the proposals, big tech, social media firms and other digital apps will be held liable for harmful material posted to their platforms. Ofcom, the UK Office of Communications, has been appointed as the regulator. This will give them power to uphold and enforce these rules outlined in the bill.

Requiring social media platforms to take responsibility over harmful content online is a welcome move.

However, if we want to create a safe online environment for everyone, fining companies who fail to comply and blocking access to sites is only one option. Another option could be the shared responsibility approach. A model of shared responsibility between social media platforms, governments, regulators and users on the platform would make sure all parties felt accountable for what remains a difficult problem to eradicate.

We’ve seen large advertising and social media companies investing heavily in filtering harmful content the past few years, but more can be done. However, we also need to remember that nothing is foolproof, especially when you’re working at the scale of the biggest digital platforms, and some harmful content will still slip through the smartest net. However, passing this legislation will undoubtedly force platforms to double down on their efforts to limit these posts.

Digital marketing plays a huge role for brands, allowing them to reach and engage the audiences they want to target. But no brand wants this to come at the cost of their brand reputation or customer loyalty. Brands want to be sure they are investing their ad budgets into safe and trustworthy platforms free from harm and toxicity.

It’s important to highlight that this bill will not be limited solely to the tech giants and social media platforms, but to other digital platforms that host user-generated content or allow people to communicate with each other.  One fact we can safely assert is that no digital platform is flawless.

Whether it’s an operating system, a mobile device or a network security product, it is loaded with vulnerabilities that hackers take advantage of to hit businesses and individuals and cause significant damage.

The Online Safety Bill will not be the silver bullet to removing harmful posts and creating a safe online environment for all, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

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