Online content safety

Online content safety

The UK's Online Safety Act, the EU's Digital Services Act and related issues.

In an increasingly digital world, regulation of online content has become a priority to protect individuals, and particularly children, from illegal and harmful content while preserving fundamental freedoms. There is no global consensus on how best to do this, which has led to a developing patchwork of regulation and legislation impacting a wide range of businesses. It's imperative to identify whether your business falls within scope of online safety legislation. Then you'll need to identify how to comply, potentially with similar but often different obligations across multiple pieces of legislation, in an efficient and cost-effective way. 

In Europe, illegal and harmful online content is regulated through two key pieces of new legislation: the UK's Online Safety Act and the EU's Digital Services Act. These broad-ranging laws have similar aims but different approaches - in reality, many cross-border businesses will be caught by both.

We understand that navigating the complexities of online safety requirements is likely to be challenging for businesses. Our international team can offer expert legal advice on whether you are in scope, as well as the full range of compliance obligations including helping to determine the extent of your obligations, risk assessment and mitigation, internal processes and governance, judging different types of content and takedown procedures, balancing requirements with fundamental rights and freedoms, technology procurement, drafting commercial and consumer-facing terms and conditions, data privacy laws, intellectual property rights, engaging with regulators, and dealing with disputes and reputational issues. 

We have extensive experience advising a broad range of clients - from technology companies to online platforms and service providers - on the online safety concerns that keep them awake at night. We provide practical guidance on how to comply with complex regulations in different jurisdictions and will support you in developing secure and compliant businesses.

The OSA and DSA

The UK's Online Safety Act (OSA)

The OSA is the UK's approach to regulating online safety. It covers not only illegal user-generated content but specified types of harmful user-generated content, particularly content harmful to children on services likely to be accessed by them. Providers of user-to-user services and search services (as well as pornographic content service providers) will have to comply with a range of risk assessment, mitigation and safety duties. Services designated as Category 1, 2A and 2B (likely to include the most high risk and high reach social media platforms and search engines) will have additional obligations. 

The OSA received Royal Assent in October 2023 and the UK government expects that more than 100,000 online providers will be in its scope. Much of the detail around the OSA will be filled in by its regulator, Ofcom, which is currently consulting on draft guidance and codes of practice. While it will take some time for the OSA to become fully operational, the first set of obligations is likely to apply by the end of 2024. Given the complexity of the legislation, in-scope service providers need to get to grips with the legislation, begin assessing whether and to what extent they are impacted, and start putting in place appropriate technical and governance processes.  

The EU's Digital Services Act (DSA)
The DSA came into force in November 2022 and will take full effect in February 2024. It regulates the obligations and accountability of online intermediaries and platforms regarding illegal content, products and services, while promoting transparent advertising. Its purpose is to create a safe digital space in which users’ rights are protected and businesses can compete on an equal footing. Obligations differ according to the size and impact of the organisation and the nature of the service, with the most stringent provisions applying to services designated as very large online platforms (VLOPs) and very large online search engines (VLOSEs). The DSA affects network infrastructure intermediaries, hosting services, and online platforms, including marketplaces and third party traders selling online, and all platforms that store content on behalf of users and make it available on demand.
Server Farm

OSA webinar

In this webinar our experts explain how the OSA will impact your online business and what you need to do to prepare for compliance.

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Latest - News and Insights

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Interface - The UK's Online Safety Act

The Online Safety Act and children

Megan Lukins looks at the application of the OSA to user-to-user content likely to be accessed by children.

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by Megan Lukins

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Interface

Interface

Analysis and exploration of legal and commercial issues in tech, IP, media and related sectors.

The Online Safety Act

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Digital Legislation Tracker

Digital Legislation Tracker

To help you stay on top of developments we've built a high-level legislation tracker looking at areas relevant to digital businesses across the EU, UK and Germany. 

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