IPSO Blog: Next steps for Online Harms

Communications & Public Affairs Officer Hanno Fenech on recent Online Harms updates.

This week, new details of the government’s plans to regulate online harms were released. The Interim Code of Practice outlines how the proposed law will protect children and vulnerable people from online abuse and illegal content.

Ofcom has been designated the regulator of this, charged with ensuring a duty of care on social media platforms to prevent online harm. Ofcom will have the power to sanction social media companies should they fail to adhere to this duty of care.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, has confirmed that news publishers will have special protections within the Online Harms regulations to protect free speech and freedom of expression.

Dowden emphasised the importance of the role of trusted news publishers under IPSO regulation when speaking on tackling misinformation online: “We are so fortunate in this country to have well-established newspapers, broadcasters who are committed to public service information and we’ve seen that through the Covid crisis, and that is why we have supported them through this period”.

IPSO already regulates online content of the majority of-newspapers and magazines in the UK. User-generated comments (such as below-the-line replies and comments from news readers) and other material over which a newspaper would have editorial discretion are already subject to the Editors’ Code of Practice as are articles themselves.

Where readers see the IPSO mark they can be sure that what they are reading is edited, curated and accountable journalism. That publication is committed to upholding the high standards set by the Editors’ Code of Practice and is accountable to an independent regulator. Where mistakes are made, they can also be assured that the Editors’ Code makes clear that inaccuracies must be corrected promptly and with due prominence.

IPSO welcomes the recognition of its existing online content regulation and the decision to exempt news publishers from duplicate regulation. Though many questions remain to clarified, protections to press and journalistic freedom have been ensured.

Read IPSO’s consultation response to the Online Harms White Paper here.

Read more about IPSO regulation of user generated content here.