Online Safety Bill becomes law

The Government’s Online Safety Bill has now become law after receiving Royal Assent.

The Act requires both social media and pornography websites to implement age-verification measures that are “highly effective at correctly determining whether or not a particular user is a child”. Similar checks were approved under the Digital Economy Act 2017, but plans to implement them were abandoned in 2019.

Although Ofcom will gradually implement the Online Safety Act’s measures, it “will immediately begin work on tackling illegal content” and launch a consultation process on 9 November 2023.

‘Major step’

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “The Online Safety Act’s strongest protections are for children. Social media companies will be held to account for the appalling scale of child sexual abuse occurring on their platforms and our children will be safer.

“We are determined to combat the evil of child sexual exploitation wherever it is found, and this Act is a big step forward.”

Ofcom’s Chief Executive Dame Melanie Dawes added: “We will set new standards online, making sure sites and apps are safer by design. Importantly, we’ll also take full account of people’s rights to privacy and freedom of expression.”


Last November, The Christian Institute welcomed the Government’s decision to drop the Bill’s concerning ‘legal but harmful’ clause, which threatened to restrict Christians’ freedom of speech online.

As the Act came into effect yesterday the Institute’s Ciarán Kelly said “it was now time to focus on making the law stick”.

“Effective enforcement will be crucial. Ofcom have a lot of ground to cover and their track record on using existing powers has been poor.

“With so much at stake, especially for vulnerable young people, it’s time for them to step up and ensure that tech firms do what the law requires them to do – protect children, and protect free speech.”


Prior to amendments, the Bill included controversial wording relating to the restriction of ‘legal but harmful’ content for adults.

This led to fears that social media companies – which have a track record of restricting Christian and socially conservative content – would inevitably go far beyond what the law sets out and censor traditional views on marriage, sexuality and gender.

But following a meeting with the Institute and other key stakeholders, the Government dropped the clause last year.

Also see:

Govt urged to ‘act now’ to further strengthen pornography restrictions

‘Pornography fuels abuse and degradation’ says former addict

Porn ‘leading teens down a path towards child abuse material’

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