Ofcom has today published the first of four consultations on the long awaited codes of practice in relation to the new the Online Safety Act, which was signed into law a week ago. Under the Act, providers of online services will have, among other things, new duties to keep users of their services safe. The focus of this consultation is on protecting people from illegal harms online, such as grooming, fraud and child sexual abuse. As well as providing a background to the new Online Safety regime, the consultation explores the causes and impacts of online harms, and provides draft guidance on how services can assess and mitigate those risks.

Each of the draft codes will have a consultation period before requiring final approval from Parliament. The first consultation period is open until 23 February 2024.

Whilst still in draft form and subject to change, the consultation provides a useful starting point for businesses to understand how they will need to implement the Act. It also sets out a timetable for implementation and give clues as to what Ofcom’s priorities will be for enforcement.

Once the consultation closes, Ofcom will consider responses and publish a statement setting out its decisions in relation to its consultation proposals, including final versions of the guidance and Codes. Ofcom currently plans to publish its statement towards the end of 2024, following which services will have three months to conduct their risk assessments.

We will be publishing a more detailed analysis on the consultation in the coming days. In the meantime, you can view Ofcom’s landing page for the consultation here: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/consultations-and-statements/category-1/protecting-people-from-illegal-content-online