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Parliamentary committees seek views on Draft Online Safety Bill


United Kingdom

Three months on from the publication of the draft Online Safety Bill on 12 May 2021 there are now two separate opportunities for interested parties to submit their views.
The Joint pre-legislative scrutiny Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill was established by the House of Lords and the House of Commons on 23 July 2021 to consider the draft Bill. Chaired by Damian Collins MP, the Committee will make recommendations in a report to both Houses by 10 December 2021.

Submissions are due in response to the Committee's call for evidence by Thursday 16 September 2021. The Committee is seeking evidence on:
  • whether the draft Bill achieves the Government's policy objectives;
  • how the draft Bill differs to online safety legislation in other countries;
  • whether the draft Bill poses a threat to freedom of expression;
  • the content and service in scope of the draft Bill and any omissions from scope;
  • the role of algorithms and user agency in online safety; and
  • the role of Ofcom.

DCMS sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation

There is also a simultaneous inquiry by the DCMS sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation.
Chaired by Julian Knight MP, this sub-committee will comment more broadly on the online safety policy area and its development since the introduction of the Online Safety Strategy Green Paper in 2017. It will also consider key omissions, contested inclusions, tensions or contradictions in the draft Bill, and comparisons with existing and proposed legislation in other jurisdictions.
Submissions are due by close of play on Friday 3 September 2021

Anticipated feedback

Both Committees offer a welcome opportunity for interested parties to influence the direction of the Bill and identify areas where further development is needed, particularly given the reception to the draft Bill thus far has been mixed.

We anticipate that clients will want to raise concerns regarding the cost of compliance, the impact of the new regime on freedom of expression online, and to ensure that the final Bill does not stifle innovation and can keep pace with the speed of technological change.  Further guidance is likely to be needed in many areas including the definition of content 'harmful' to children and adults. This is also an opportunity to highlight key omissions in the draft Bill, which has been criticised for failing to do enough to protect users from online scams, and to restrict children's access to online pornography.
The Bill is likely to develop significantly before it takes final form, and much of the detail of the regime will not be clarified until secondary legislation and guidance by Ofcom is published.

This update was co-authored by Liah Roberts, regulatory trainee.

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