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The Online Safety Bill (PDF) [Bill 285 2021-22] was introduced in the House of Commons on 17 March 2022.

The Bill had its second reading on 19 April 2022. A carry-over motion was approved on the same date. The Online Safety Bill (PDF) [Bill 4 2022-23] was re-introduced in the Commons on 10 May 2022.

The Government has said the Bill delivers its “manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while defending free expression”. The Bill has five policy objectives:

  • to increase user safety online.
  • to preserve and enhance freedom of speech online.
  • to improve law enforcement’s ability to tackle illegal content online.
  • to improve users’ ability to keep themselves safe online.
  • to improve society’s understanding of the harm landscape.

Policy background to the Bill, as it was introduced, is set out in the Library Briefing, Analysis of the Online Safety Bill (PDF)(8 April 2022).

The Bill was considered by a Public Bill Committee over seventeen sittings between 24 May and 28 June 2022. Oral evidence was taken from expert witnesses during the first four sittings. Line by line examination of the Bill took place over thirteen sittings in June 2022. The Government added a new schedule 2 to the Bill to enable Ofcom to recover its initial costs by charging fees to service providers. Clause 129 was also amended by the Government so that Ofcom would have to consult the Information Commissioner’s Office before publishing guidance on the use of its enforcement powers. No Opposition amendments were agreed.

The Bill [Bill 121 2022-23] (PDF), as amended in Committee, has been published.

The first day of report stage took place on 12 July 2022. Government amendments were added to the Bill relating to journalistic content, adult safety duties, and illegal content duties. The Bill’s remaining stages are scheduled for 5 December 2022.

Government amendments when the Bill returns

On 25 November 2022, Dominic Raab, the Secretary of State for Justice, announced that the Government intended to legislate “to introduce a package of new criminal offences on intimate image abuse”. This would include using the Bill to criminalise the sharing of people’s intimate images without their consent.

On 28 November 2022, the DCMS announced amendments to the Bill including:

  • new measures to tackle violence against women and girls.
  • strengthening protections for children.
  • changes to the provisions on “legal but harmful” to protect freedom of expression.
  • removing the proposed new harmful communications offence set out in clause 151, again to protect freedom of expression.
  • introducing an offence of sending a communication that encourages serious self-harm.

The Government has also said it will introduce a new offence of “epilepsy trolling”.

For further information, see: DCMS, Online Safety Bill: Update, Written Ministerial Statement, 29 November 2022.

The Government intends to return some of the Bill’s clauses to Public Bill Committee – see DCMS, Online Safety Bill: Government amendments, Written Ministerial Statement, 30 November 2022.

For comment on the Bill, including the Government’s proposed amendments, see the Library Briefing, Online Safety Bill: A reading list (PDF) (30 November 2022).


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