Online Safety Bill - February 2022

Dear Constituent,

Thank you for contacting me about the Online Safety Bill and pornography.

Please be assured that I take the issue of non-consensual publication of pornography and children accessing this material extremely seriously. I was pleased to see this week’s important announcement of further protections - World-leading measures to protect children from accessing pornography online - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Under the revised Online Safety Bill, providers that publish or place pornographic content on their services will have a legal duty to prevent children from accessing that harmful content. To this end, robust checks must be implemented to ensure their users are 18 years old or over, including by using age verification technologies.

If sites fail to act, the independent regulator Ofcom will be able fine companies up to 10 per cent of their annual worldwide turnover or can block them from being accessible in the UK. Bosses of these websites could also be held criminally liable if they fail to cooperate with Ofcom.

All websites that display pornography fall into the scope of the Government’s pioneering new internet safety laws, capturing commercial providers of pornography as well as sites that allow user-generated content. These measures offer greater protections for children than would have been covered by the narrower scope of the Digital Economy Act and extend to social media companies too, where a considerable quantity of pornographic material is accessible.

The final legislation, when introduced to Parliament, will also contain provisions that require companies to report child sexual exploitation and abuse content identified on their services. This will ensure companies provide law enforcement with the high-quality information they need to safeguard victims and investigate offenders.

More broadly, in line with the Government's response to the Online Harms White Paper, the Bill will require all companies in scope to have a duty of care towards their users so that what is unacceptable offline will also be unacceptable online. They will need to consider the risks their sites may pose to the youngest and most vulnerable people and act to protect children from inappropriate content and harmful activity. Furthermore, the largest and most popular social media sites (Category 1 services) will need to act on content that is lawful but still harmful.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Sincerely,

Richard Fuller