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Home // Top Ten FAQs on the Online Safety Bill: An In-Depth Analysis

For those seeking to navigate the complexities of the United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill, this blog aims to provide answers to ten important FAQs surrounding this complex and important bill. It addresses key questions and concerns, offering insights into the legislation’s impact on individuals, social media platforms, and the broader digital landscape. We invite you to explore this resource for a nuanced understanding of this pivotal legal development.

1.  What is the primary aim of the Online Safety Bill?

The primary aim of the Online Safety Bill is to bolster online safety for both children and adults in the United Kingdom. It imposes new responsibilities on social media companies to ensure user safety.  It also introduces specific offences to penalize harmful online activities. The bill represents a paradigm shift in how online safety is approached, moving from a reactive to a proactive stance. Its focus is not simply on penalising harmful actions but also on preventing them in the first place. This is evident in the “duty of care” that it imposes on tech companies, a term usually reserved for healthcare and other critical services, highlighting the gravity with which online safety is now being taken.

2.  How does the bill differ from previous regulations?

Unlike previous laws such as the Malicious Communications Act 1988, the Online Safety Bill is more comprehensive and specific.  The bill can be seen as a response to the limitations of previous legislation, which were often reactive and ‘piecemeal’ in nature. It also aims to provide a comprehensive framework that addresses the multifaceted challenges of the digital age, from cyberbullying to disinformation campaigns.

3.  What are the new offences introduced by the bill?

The bill introduces offences including “harmful communications,” designed to penalize those causing serious emotional distress, and “false communications,” intended to cause harm. These are more specific and punitive compared to previous laws. These new offences are particularly noteworthy because they reflect a nuanced understanding of the types of harm that can be inflicted online. For example, the “false communications offence” is not just about penalizing falsehood but is specifically targeted at false information that is intended to cause harm. This updates the statute books with a better understanding of the complexities involved in regulating online speech.

4.  How will social media companies be affected?

Social media companies will have to take on new responsibilities, such as conducting risk assessments for children and having an accessible complaints procedure. They are also required to take robust action against online terrorist activities and other forms of harmful content. The bill puts the onus on social media companies to act as gatekeepers of online safety. This is a significant departure from the past, where they were largely considered platforms rather than publishers, absolving them of much responsibility for user-generated content.

5.  Are there any criticisms of the bill?

Yes, the bill has been criticized for its potential to infringe upon fundamental human rights like privacy and freedom of expression. Organizations like the Open Rights Group have raised concerns about the bill’s potential overreach. While the bill’s objectives are laudable, the criticisms highlight the delicate balance that must be struck between safety and freedom. The challenge lies in implementing safety measures that are effective but not overly restrictive, a balance that is difficult to achieve but crucial for the bill’s long-term success.

6.  What are the penalties for non-compliance?

If social media platforms consistently fail to comply with the provisions of this bill, Ofcom could fine them up to £18 million or 10% of their global annual revenue, whichever is biggest. Fines handed down to the biggest platforms could potentially reach billions of pounds. The hefty fines indicate the government’s seriousness in enforcing the bill.  However, it also raises questions about whether smaller platforms will be able to meet these stringent requirements, without compromising on user experience or innovation.

7.  How does the bill balance online safety with freedom of expression?

The bill specifies that companies are required to take content down when they become aware of it but does not impose any general obligation of monitoring or filtering, thereby protecting the right to freedom of expression. This clause is crucial as it aims to prevent the bill from becoming a tool for mass surveillance or censorship. However, the effectiveness of this balance will ultimately depend on how the bill is implemented and interpreted by the courts.

8.  What’s next for the Online Safety Bill?

The bill has passed through the House of Commons and is awaiting further legislative steps before becoming law. Once enacted, it will represent a significant shift in the UK’s approach to online safety. The next steps are crucial. The bill’s impact will largely depend on the regulations and guidelines that will be developed to implement it, as well as how rigorously it is enforced.

9.  Where can I find the Online Safety Bill?

To see the present draft of the Online Safety Bill, you can refer to the government’s official guide. Given the complexity and potential impact of the bill, it is advisable to consult multiple sources, including legal analyses and commentaries.   This will help to provide a more comprehensive understanding of its implications. This is where we come in – see FAQ 10!

10.  How can Nath Solicitors help you with this Bill?

The Online Safety Bill is an extremely weighty piece of legislation whose provisions have been described by a barrister at 1 Crown Office Row Chambers as ‘verbose’, and whose final version runs to more than three hundred pages long. At Nath Solicitors, we have a long and successful history of advising high-profile clients as well as ordinary citizens on the implications of online legislation on their personal lives and businesses. In light of this legislation’s complexity and the large impact it is likely to have on the landscape of social media governance, if you have any professional queries relating to the bill it is essential you seek expert guidance. Contact Shubha Nath at Nath Solicitors on 020 8138 9373 or get in touch with the firm online.


This section aims to elucidate the complexities and implications of the Online Safety Bill.  It covers a wide range of topics from its primary objectives to the responsibilities it places on social media platforms. As we navigate this legislative landscape, it’s crucial to consider the bill’s strengths and weaknesses from a legal standpoint.

The bill undoubtedly marks a significant milestone in the United Kingdom’s regulatory approach to online safety. It is a comprehensive framework and the “duty of care” principle fills many gaps in previous legislation, placing a much-needed emphasis on the proactive responsibilities of social media companies. This is a commendable step forward in safeguarding users, particularly vulnerable populations, from the myriad of online harms.




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