Last month, the UK Government published its much anticipated Online Safety Bill which aims to tackle ‘harmful’ content on social media and elsewhere online. Here Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana, IMPRESS’s Head of Regulation, reviews the impact of the Government’s draft bill on journalism, press regulation and protection of the public from online harms.
In the interests of transparency, Pam Vick, the Founder and CEO of Caspia Consultancy Ltd., is a current non-executive director of IMPRESS at time of writing.
On 12 May 2021, two years after the publication of its Online Harms White Paper, the Government published the Online Safety Bill, “a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online”. As demanded by many industry bodies, including IMPRESS, this draft includes exemptions for journalistic and news content from the broad statutory duties set out under the bill. But some fundamental questions remain.
As it starts to make its way through the legislative process, here are 5 issues that the article explains “deserve the attention of news publishers and their readers”.
- Does this Bill introduce elements of statutory regulation of journalism “through the back door”?
- Definitions of what “recognised” news publishers look (or should) look like clash with the press regulation systems already in place
- Many publications remain unregulated in the UK; this puts the public at risk
- Content moderation of journalism by third-party private companies?
- User-generated content on news sites gets a free pass with no public protection in place
So what comes now?