Question to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the capability of UK regulators (1) to maintain existing statutory protections relating to harmful online content, and (2) to ensure effective enforcement of these protections, between the end of the transition period for the UK’s departure from the EU and the enactment of their proposed online harms legislation.
The Government is firmly committed to making the UK the safest place in the world to be online and the end of the transition period will not affect this. Regulations transposing the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMS Directive) came into force on the 1st of November 2020 and require UK-established video sharing platforms (VSPs) to have systems and processes in place to protect the public, including minors, from illegal and harmful material. Ofcom has the power to take enforcement action against UK-established VSPs which do not take adequate appropriate measures, or which do not implement the measures adequately, in order to protect UK users.
VSPs established in the European Economic Area will not be regulated by Ofcom and will be regulated by the Member State that they are established in. As the regulation under this VSP regime is systems regulation and not content regulation, we expect platforms based outside of the UK to set up and invest in systems in order to comply with the AVMS Directive. It is anticipated that these same systems will also be introduced for their UK subsidiaries particularly in anticipation of the incoming online harms regime. Regulation provided by other EU Member States will therefore be effective and robust enough to provide protection to UK users until such time as the online harms regime is in place.
As the AVMS Directive aligns well with the Government’s plans to tackle online harms, the VSP regime will be repealed and superseded by the online harms regulatory framework, once it comes into force. We will publish the Full Government Response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation later this year, which will contain more detailed proposals on online harms regulation.