Abstract. The Parliament of the United Kingdom has recently tabled the Online Safety Bill with the intention of making the internet safer for users by making it the responsibility of providers to regulate legal but harmful content on their platform. This paper critically assesses the draft legislation, surveying the rationale for its proposal (to correct social issues and fill a regulatory lacuna); its scope in terms of lawful and unlawful harms it intends to regulate; and the mechanisms through which it will be enforced, focusing on the role of Ofcom. We argue that it requires further refinement if it is to protect the freedom and potential for innovation in the digital sphere and propose four main conclusions: further evidence is required regarding the role that the internet plays in terms of creating or exacerbating harms that are not novel to an online setting; the Bill may create a possible democratic deficit since much of the authority will be delegated to Ofcom, limiting the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny; the duties of the bill may be too wide in terms of burdening providers and could potentially facilitate wider censorship; and that enforcement of a Code of Practice will likely be insufficient to do what the Bill aims to do.
June 24th, 2022
A Digital Duty of Care: A Critical Review of the Online Safety Bil
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