8th November 2023
The Online Safety Act: How we can help you comply with the new law

On 26 October 2023, the much-debated and long-awaited Online Safety Act (OSA) became law.

This means any platform (including websites) that allows users to interact with each other, is now required to report activity and content produced by its users to Ofcom, particularly if it is illegal or harmful to children.

Though many of the requirements set out in the act can drive positive change, building new processes and systems to comply with them will be onerous, time-consuming and expensive. However, not doing so could prove more detrimental: organisations that fail to comply will face fines of up to £18 million or 10% of revenue (whichever is greater), and even prison.

Who is affected?

Ofcom thinks as many as 25,000 UK businesses will be impacted by the new regulations. Any organisation that operates a website, app or online platform that supports user interaction is in scope. The Act places responsibility on these in-scope organisations to ensure they comply.

What is required to comply?

The key requirements or ‘duties’ for those businesses is to comply with Codes of Practice set out by Ofcom. Businesses will also have to pay fees to Ofcom and comply with any enforcement action.

The duties include:

  • carrying out risk assessments;
  • removing content;
  • reviewing, reporting, and record-keeping;
  • creating new policies and procedures particularly around complaints, privacy, and freedom of expression; and
  • empowering users regarding the content and activity they interact with through process and design.

Organisations in scope are going to have to undertake extensive work programmes to bring themselves up to compliance and satisfy Ofcom that they meet the duties.

What about publishers and editorial websites?

Any degree of user interactivity means you must comply with the new law. Even if your primary purpose is publishing news or editorial content, if you also allow users to engage with each other in comments, forums or upload material and share with others, you will be affected.

Recognising how problematic it is for a government body to regulate a free press, an exemption was created in the law for news publishers, so long as they meet certain criteria.

💡 Good news for publishers: Any news publisher or website that adopts voluntary self-regulation, overseen by Impress, will automatically meet the exception criteria and comply with the Online Safety Act.

Members of Impress enjoy a range of additional benefits, such as accreditation, ethics information and compliance support, consumer complaints handling, low-cost dispute resolution, and membership of a large and growing network of independent news and editorial publishers operating in the UK and internationally.

In addition, Impress membership now provides the added benefit of compliance with the Online Safety Act. Once Ofcom publishes OSA requirements, our members will be provided with access to publisher-specific policies, guidance on organisational process definition and changes, one-on-one compliance advice, and exemption from Ofcom fees.

So, if you are concerned about what the new Online Safety Act might mean for your business, get in touch and we can help you understand your obligations and options under the new requirements, so you can continue to operate legally and on your own terms.

Just email compliance@impressorg.com.

Media enquiries

Louie Chandler: louie@impressreg.org.uk / 02033076778

About Impress 

Impress is a champion for news that can be trusted. We are here to make sure news providers can publish with integrity; and the public can engage in an ever-changing media landscape with confidence. We set the highest regulatory standards for news, offer education to help people make informed choices and provide resolution when disputes arise.