Online Safety Act Network

OSA Network statement on illegal harms consultation


The Online Safety Act Network has today (20 February) released a statement co-signed by 22 civil society organisations, campaigners and experts setting out a number of concerns about the proposals in Ofcom’s first consultation on the new Online Safety Act regime, which closes this Friday.

The statement, which has the backing of prominent charities spanning children’s rights (Barnardo’s, 5 Rights Foundation), suicide prevention (Samaritans, Molly Rose Foundation) and anti-racism and abuse campaigners (Antisemitism Policy Trust, Glitch, Kick It Out, End Violence Against Women Coalition), details concerns about the approach Ofcom has chosen to take in its first draft codes of practice - on illegal harms - and the impact these choices will have on user safety. 

A number of key areas are highlighted, including:

  • Ofcom’s overriding focus on takedown of illegal content without taking into account the Act’s “safety-by-design” foundations;
  • the preferential weight given to “best practice” evidence from industry in drawing up the recommended measures in the codes, which limits the range of options available for inclusion;
  • concerns over the cost-based approach to proportionality and the differential expectations for large and small companies; and
  • the prioritisation of users’ freedom of expression above the adverse impacts on fundamental rights of others. 

The statement also flags the challenges that the sector has faced in responding to the consultation: at 1700+ pages, the detail and complexity contained in the documents has been a barrier to the meaningful engagement of large numbers of civil society organisations, despite their campaigning and advocacy having played an integral role in shaping the legislation and their ongoing commitment to its effective implementation.

You can download the full statement below.

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