Receiving royal approval in Parliament, a law that firmly holds social media to account and upholds their responsibility for keeping children safe online.
The Online Safety Act will impose stricter legislation and a zero-tolerance approach on platforms that have a duty in the modern internet era to prevent minors from seeing illegal content like pornography, suicide material or terrorism online.
Age limits with verifiable age protections will be expected of all social media sites and websites while the new laws should empower adults to have greater control over what content they can see. The finalising of this law follows intense scrutiny of the dangers children face in digital spaces in the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The Act places pressure on social platforms to be seen to act quickly in implementing safety-by-design technology to fight and remove harmful content, or face significant penalties reaching up to £18 million.
Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said:
“I am immensely proud of the work that has gone into the Online Safety Act from its very inception to it becoming law today” and the bill will protect “free speech, empower adults and ensure that platforms remove illegal content”.
Social media platforms should too be more transparent about the risks and dangers posed to children on their sites, including by publishing risk assessments so parents can report quickly problems online when they do arise.
The UK Home Secretary condemned the “appalling scale of child sexual abuse occurring on their platforms” – many sexual offences now recognised by the law disproportionately impacting women and girls who should be better protected.
Internet users themselves will be given options to filter content.
TikTok and Snapchat have begun meeting some of the requirements by installing stronger age verification and permanently closing the accounts of underage users.