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Royal Assent of the Online Safety Act: What’s next?

The Online Safety Bill has reached Royal Assent, following both Houses of Parliament reaching agreement on its contents — meaning it has become law, and we move from calling it the Online Safety Bill to the Online Safety Act. With the Online Safety Act coming into force, by no means is this work done. Now, the long road to implementation begins. The Act leaves a lot of scope for interpretation in how Ofcom will implement it.

Yes, women and girls are named in the Act and yes, tech corporations will have to comply with regulations imposed by Ofcom in a new era of regulation, but just what difference the Act, including the amendments we outlined in our previous blog, will make is yet to be seen.

While the process of lobbying has been long and hard, these changes are much harder to reverse than a new tech CEO coming into power and changing company policy. So although the Act is far from perfect, this is still a major win for holding tech corporations accountable for online safety.

The Act makes the UK into one of the most regulated spaces in the world for online safety and may well be used by other jurisdictions when creating their own tech regulation laws — some adopting similar approaches and others choosing different paths. Now it has been enacted, the new regulator Ofcom has a lot more power over tech corporations, and we will ensure that Glitch’s expertise supports their work to create various guidance documents and ensure their approach is as robust as possible when it comes to ending online gender based violence.

Let’s not forget that the UK will hold a general election before the end of January 2025, with political parties making new and renewed commitments to holding tech corporations to account. Now that the Online Safety Act has passed, we know what it contains in its entirety, and know what opportunities have been taken with the legislation, as well as those that have been missed when it comes to ending online gender-based violence and improving the online experiences of Black women in the UK.

Now is a unique opportunity for all political parties running in the next general election to ensure their manifesto commitments on tech regulation add value to the Online Safety Act. Alongside further tech regulation policies that must work for women and girls, tech corporations must be held accountable through party manifesto commitments to::

  • Strongly implement the Online Safety Act for women and girls
  • Delivering a public health approach to ending online gender based violence, with increased media literacy and enhanced digital citizenship across the UK
  • A ‘tech tax’ that ringfences the revenue already collected from Big Tech and puts it towards preventative online gender-based violence interventions
  • AI regulation that includes risk assessments for how AI can exacerbate racism and sexism through enabling abuse, such as deepfakes and misinformation, and encoding bias in databases, such as those used for policing or content moderation

We must ensure that the online space is a place for Black joy, connection and community, building on our tireless campaigning work to ensure online gender based violence has been recognised in the Online Safety Act — likely to be the first of many important laws and policies to ensure the online space is a source of connection and community for Black women and girls.

What next?

We have our work cut out for us as we continue on our mission to end online abuse for good — work we can’t do without your support.

👉🏽 Our campaign to have women and girls named in the Online Safety Act was supported by BT and EE Hope United. If you’d like to be one of the corporate partners that empowers Glitch to effect meaningful and lasting change in the world, please reach out to Olivia.

👉🏽 We deliver workshops to organisations and businesses across different sectors, and our impactful training provides groups and individuals with expert knowledge on online safety, digital self-care and wellbeing. If your workplace wants to make a meaningful commitment to progressing digital citizenship, digital self-care and wellbeing, book a workshop with us!

👉🏽 Join our community of digital citizens to stay up-to-date about our work and to get involved in campaigns to end online abuse for good.