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UK government publishes details of digital regulation to combat ‘Online Harms’

On 15 December 2020, the UK government published its long-awaited proposals “to make the UK a safer place to be online” through its final response to the Online Harms White Paper
Proposing a new regulatory framework for online companies, it targets a wide range of illegal or harmful content affecting individual users. Committing to introducing the Online Safety Bill in 2021, the proposals would mark the end of the “era of self-regulation”, instead placing significant legal and practical responsibility on online companies.

Having launched the Online Harms White Paper in April 2019, calls for details of the government’s final proposals intensified over 2020 as increasing aspects of everyday life were conducted online during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, this is just one aspect of the current wave of international digital regulation, with the UK Digital Markets Taskforce recently publishing its recommendations for a new regime in the UK to govern the behaviour of digital firms with market power and the European Commission releasing its Digital Services Act package, also on 15 December 2020.

In this article, we consider the key provisions in the government’s final consultation response and outline the next steps on the road to regulation.