The Online Safety Act received Royal Assent last week (Thursday 26 October) and with that Ofcom picked up the reins from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and this new network was born.
The aims of the Online Safety Act Network are simple: building on the work of Carnegie UK, we hope to help coordinate and support civil society engagement to secure the effective implementation of the Act.
There is much to do on that score. To coincide with Royal Assent, Ofcom last week published a revised roadmap setting out the phases of work they will undertake as the regulatory framework takes shape: the headlines are here and the first swathe of consultations, focusing on the illegal harms duties, are due to be published on 9 November.
The regulator may have had a longer-than-expected lead-in to this point, given the disagreements and delays faced by the Bill during its passage through Parliament, and it is doubtless keen to get its preparatory work out into the open. But the volume and detail that is expected to land next week will be significant - even for the most seasoned, well-resourced stakeholders - and this is just the start. There will be plenty more to come in further phases over the next two years.
The detail in these codes, guidance and other regulatory products will bring into effect the Online Safety regime: the input of stakeholders, particularly civil society organisations who have campaigned long and hard to get the primary legislation right, will be vital to ensure the regime delivers what they expected. For many organisations, there will be an asymmetry between the volume of work required and the resources available to respond.
We hope that the Online Safety Act Network can help by bringing expert analysis, resources and updates into one place and by convening and connecting those who want to ensure the Act delivers the most effective outcomes possible. You can read more about us - and the experts who are joining our Advisory Council - here.
We have already published some initial commentary and analysis - including blogs from Professor Lorna Woods on the coming into force of the regime and on the difference between codes and guidance; and from her Essex University colleague, Dr Alexandros Antoniou, on the impact of the Government’s last-minute concession on bringing small, high-harm platforms into the Bill.
We have also brought together on our resource page the most important OSA-related reference documents and Ofcom publications to date - including the final version of the legislation, the Online Safety Act 2023, as published on 30 October 2023.
These pages will be updated regularly as we produce new analysis, provide expert interpretation on Ofcom’s output, share our responses to their consultations and collate other relevant material for the network.
Our newsletter, which picks up where the Carnegie UK Online Harms newsletter leaves off this week, will start hitting inboxes within a fortnight: sign up for that here.