On 16 February, the ICO issued guidance to help online platforms by setting out how data protection law applies to content moderation activities. We’ve seen increasing obligations on online platforms to proactively protect its users, especially in light of the UK’s Online Safety Act and the EU’s Digital Services Act, which has thrown a greater focus on the need for content moderation tools. In its guidance, the ICO (in collaboration with Ofcom) have brought to the attention of organisations that care must be taken in how personal data is being used as part of moderation processes and ensuring that data protection rules are respected. 

The guidance and press release highlights concerns around the results of moderation processes causing potential harm if they incorrectly assess content as illegal, when the determination is based on inaccurate personal data. Individuals wrongly identified as being responsible for the illegal content mean that platforms are at risk of enforcement action and damages. To help assist platforms, the guidance clarifies:

  • how to mitigate data processing risks and to process on a lawful basis, fairly and transparently;
  • how to comply with principles around data minimisation and purpose limitations, and to respect the rights of individuals including access, accuracy and rectification;
  • the parameters of whether a moderation system involves solely automated decision-making and the rules which apply if so; and 
  • how to comply with the ICO's Children's Code for any processing of children's data. 

The ICO plans to issue a series on online safety technologies in collaboration with Ofcom to ensure that data protection rights are respected whilst platforms take measures to ensure online safety. Online safety rules and data protection both need to be complied with and its clear from the recent guidance and the previous joint statement by the ICO and Ofcom that it is not the case of one or the other, but about a holistic approach to compliance with both.

If you would like to keep up to date on the latest in data protection, please get in touch to subscribe to our newsletter, The Data Download