Ofcom may be appointed online harms regulator

The government has said it may appoint Ofcom as online harms regulator to protect children and vulnerable people online.

The regulator will play a key role in enforcing a statutory duty of care to protect internet users from harmful content.

Ofcom will get new powers to carry out its extended responsibilities. This will include making sure online companies have the systems and processes in place to fulfil the duty of care to keep people using their platforms safe.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said: "The backbone of an internet that is safe for children is regulation, which is why this announcement is so important.

Children face growing risks online, including cyber-bullying, sexual grooming, and exposure to self-harm forums. Two thirds of the vulnerable children supported through our sexual exploitation services were groomed online before meeting their abuser in person.

"We cannot expect children to protect themselves. Instead we need a regulator to act without delay. To do so, it will need the necessary powers to carry out work effectively and to hold tech companies to account."

Ofcom will hold companies to account if they do not tackle internet harms such as child sexual exploitation and abuse and terrorism.
The initial response also sets out decisions the government has taken on a number of the other proposals put forward in the Online Harms White Paper.

The government will publish a full consultation response in Spring 2020. This will set out further details of the potential enforcement powers Ofcom may have. The government will carefully consider the full impacts of this potential change both for Ofcom and to inform broader work on the regulatory landscape.


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