Queen's Speech 2019

The Queen's Speech 2019 contained a proposal for an Online Harms Bill.

Briefing note extract

The government's official explanatory note contains the following extract:

Online harms

“My Ministers will continue to develop proposals to improve internet safety”

  • Britain is leading the world in developing a comprehensive regulatory regime to keep people safe online, protect children and other vulnerable users and ensure that there are no safe spaces for terrorists online.
  • The April 2019 Online Harms White Paper set out the Government’s plan for world-leading legislation to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
  • The proposals, as set out in the White Paper were:
    • A new duty of care on companies towards their users, with an independent regulator to oversee this framework.
    • We want to keep people safe online, but we want to do this in a proportionate way, ensuring that freedom of expression is upheld and promoted online, and businesses do not face undue burdens.
    • We are seeking to do this by ensuring that companies have the right processes and systems in place to fulfil their obligations, rather than penalising them for individual instances of unacceptable content.
    • Our public consultation on this has closed and we are analysing the responses and considering the issues raised. We are working closely with a variety of stakeholders, including technology companies and civil society groups, to understand their views.
  • Next steps:
    • We will publish draft legislation for pre-legislative scrutiny.
    • Ahead of this legislation, the Government will publish work on tackling the use of the internet by terrorists and those engaged in child sexual abuse and exploitation, to ensure companies take action now to tackle content that threatens our national security and the physical safety of children.
    • We are also taking forward additional measures, including a media literacy strategy, to empower users to stay safe online. A Safety by Design framework will help start-ups and small businesses to embed safety during the development or update of their products and services.

Key facts

  • There is a growing threat presented from online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. In 2018, there were over 18.4 million referrals of child sexual abuse material by US tech companies to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of those, there were 113,948 UK related referrals, up from 82,109 in 2017.
  • Terrorists also continue to use online services to spread their vile propaganda and mobilise support. All five terrorist attacks in the UK during 2017 had an online element.
  • There is majority support among adult internet users for increased regulation of social media (70 per cent), video sharing (64 per cent) and Instant Messaging services (61 per cent).
  • When asked, 83 per cent of adults expressed concern about harms to children on the internet. Of greatest concern was bullying, abusive behaviour or threats (55 per cent) and children’s exposure to inappropriate content, including pornography, (49 per cent).
  • What we have done so far:
    • The joint DCMS-Home Office Online Harms White Paper was published in April 2019. We also published the Social Media Code of Practice setting out actions social media platforms should take to prevent bullying, insulting, intimidating and humiliating behaviours on their sites.
    • In November 2018 the Government established a new UK Council for Internet Safety. This expanded the scope of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, and was guided by the Government’s Internet Safety Strategy.
    • The UK has been championing international action on online safety.. The Prime Minister used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly to champion the UK’s work on online safety.[1]


See also