The Lawfare Podcast: What’s in the U.K. Online Safety Bill?

By Jen Patja Howell
Thursday, March 31, 2022, 5:01 AM

This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information environment, we’re turning our attention to the United Kingdom, where the government has just introduced into Parliament a broad proposal for regulating the internet: the Online Safety Bill. The U.K. government has proclaimed that the Bill represents new “world-first online safety laws” and includes “tougher and quicker criminal sanctions for tech bosses.” So … what would it actually do?

To answer this question, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ellen Judson, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, a U.K. think tank. Ellen has been closely tracking the legislation as it has developed. And she helped walk us through the tangled system of regulations created by the bill. What new obligations does the Online Safety Bill create, and what companies would those obligations apply to? Why is the answer to so many questions “yet to be defined”—a phrase we kept saying again and again throughout the show—and how much of the legislation is just punting the really difficult questions for another day? What happens now that the bill has been formally introduced in Parliament?