Ofcom in the frame to be online regulator


The UK government has announced that it is “minded” to appoint Ofcom as online regulator, giving the organisation new powers to hold companies to account over harmful online content.

According to the government, the move is “part of plans to protect children and vulnerable people and give consumers greater confidence to use technology.” As such, it will create a “fair and proportionate regulatory environment” for tech companies.

The joint statement – issued by digital secretary Nicky Morgan and home secretary Priti Patel – coincides with the publication of an initial response to a public consultation on the Online Harms white paper.

Speaking of the decision, a spokesperson for the government said: “The regulator will play a key role in enforcing a statutory duty of care to protect users from harmful and illegal terrorist and child abuse content. The government believes that with its experience of overseeing the broadcasting and telecoms sectors, Ofcom has the expertise and independence needed to take on the challenge of regulating online harms.”

Priti Patel, said: “While the internet can be used to connect people and drive innovation, we know it can also be a hiding place for criminals - including paedophiles - to cause immense harm. It is incumbent on tech firms to balance issues of privacy and technological advances with child protection.

“That’s why it is right that we have a strong regulator to ensure social media firms fulfil their vital responsibility to vulnerable users.”

The regulation will only apply to companies that allow the sharing of user-generated content, and will not stop adults from “accessing or posting legal content that some may find offensive.”  Fewer than five per cent of UK businesses will fall within its scope, according to government figures.

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Media contact

Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216