Online Safety Bill receives royal assent

Posted on Tuesday 07 November 2023 | IAB UK

As the Online Safety Bill receives royal assent – becoming the Online Safety Act – find out what it means for the digital ad industry and next steps. 

The Online Safety Act was written into UK law on 26 October. The Act was introduced to increase protections from online harms and includes provisions relating to illegal and harmful content.  

The key part of the Act from an online advertising perspective is the fraudulent advertising provision. This states that ‘Category 1 and 2A’ services must take action to minimise the likelihood of fraudulent adverts being published on their service. Fraudulent advertising is defined as: ‘Paid-for; amounts to an offence (defined in relation to other legislation - Financial Services and Markets Act 2000, Fraud Act 2006, Financial Services Act 2012, Serious Crime Act 2007); and is not regulated user-to-user content.’ 

A category 1 service is defined as the highest-risk, highest-reach “regulated user-to-user services” i.e. the largest social media services. Category 2A services are defined as highest-risk, highest-reach “regulated search services”, i.e. the largest search engines. The services in scope do not need to be based in the UK to fall under the regulation of the Act. 

Ofcom has been appointed as the regulator for online harms, and now that the Act is law, Ofcom will take over to implement the provisions. Ofcom has confirmed a phased approach to implementing the new online safety regime, with the highest priority illegal harms being addressed first. You can view Ofcom’s implementation roadmap here

The roadmap indicates that Ofcom plans to publish a draft Code of Practice on fraudulent advertising in early 2025 as part of the third and final ‘phase’ of implementation which will consider transparency, user empowerment, and other duties on categorised services. Final Codes and associated guidance on fraudulent advertising will then be put to Parliament and adopted later in 2025.

We will continue to keep IAB UK members updated on any developments. Please contact [email protected] if you have any questions.  

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