Media Planning and Buying Data & Privacy Marketing

Everything you need to know about the Online Safety Act


By Kemi Akindele, Director

April 4, 2024 | 4 min read

WE Communications’s Kemi Akindele lays out how communicators and tech firms can stay ahead of the changes the OSA will bring, some welcome, some less so.

Parliament has a big decision to make on online safety

In the wake of the Online Safety Act (OSA), the digital landscape in the UK is undergoing a significant transformation, with far-reaching implications for both consumers and tech companies. The OSA marks a pivotal shift toward mandatory compliance, signaling a new era in addressing online harms and safeguarding digital users. As the regulatory spotlight expands to encompass a broader spectrum of companies, businesses must reassess their communications and marketing approach in navigating this complex regulatory landscape.

The OSA underscores the importance of collaboration and a proportional, risk-based approach to regulation in crafting effective regulatory frameworks amid the dynamic digital environment. This shift necessitates a fundamental evolution in how companies communicate their commitments to online safety and compliance with regulatory standards.

Key insights gleaned from our recent webinar discussion with Sarah Bright, Ofcom; Javahir Askari, techUK; and Susie Hargreaves, Internet Watch Foundation, highlight the challenges and opportunities ahead for tech companies and communicators:

1. Impact on smaller tech businesses: The transition from voluntary to mandatory compliance under the OSA presents unique challenges for smaller tech businesses with limited resources and expertise. These companies may face hurdles in navigating complex regulatory requirements and adapting their operations to meet compliance standards. Communicators play a crucial role in assisting smaller businesses in understanding and addressing regulatory obligations through tailored messaging and guidance.

2. Challenges and criticisms of mandatory compliance: Although mandatory compliance under the OSA is a significant step forward in addressing online harms, it also raises concerns and criticisms. Some stakeholders may argue that mandatory compliance could stifle innovation and impose undue regulatory burdens on businesses, particularly smaller players. Communicators must address these concerns proactively by emphasizing the importance of regulatory compliance in safeguarding users while also promoting innovation and adaptability within the digital ecosystem.

3. International collaboration in addressing online harms: The OSA underscores the need for international collaboration in addressing online harms on a global scale. Regulatory frameworks can facilitate such collaboration by providing a common framework for addressing shared challenges. Communicators play a role in fostering cross-border dialogue and cooperation among regulatory authorities, industry stakeholders and civil society organisations to develop common approaches for addressing online harms.

Moving forward, tech companies and communicators must adopt a collaborative and proactive approach to navigate the implications of the OSA effectively. This includes:

  • Monitoring Regulatory Developments: Tech companies must remain vigilant in monitoring Ofcom’s ongoing actions related to the OSA, including consultations and codes of practice that will shape the regulatory landscape. Communicators can help companies stay informed and proactive in addressing regulatory changes through targeted communication strategies.

  • Engaging in Regulatory Processes: Active participation in Ofcom’s consultations is essential for tech companies to shape the regulatory framework in meaningful ways. Communicators can assist companies in articulating their perspectives and concerns effectively, ensuring that regulatory frameworks align with industry needs and priorities.

  • Advocating for Innovation and Adaptability: Innovation is key to safeguarding users in the digital landscape, as emphasized by industry experts. Communicators can showcase their organizations’ dedication to innovation and forward-thinking strategies in combating emerging digital threats. Highlighting initiatives, technologies and methodologies aimed at proactively addressing evolving challenges can demonstrate a commitment to user safety while aligning with regulatory standards.

The Online Safety Act heralds a new era in digital regulation. By embracing collaboration, innovation and a proactive approach to regulatory compliance, companies can navigate the complexities of the digital landscape while safeguarding user safety and privacy. Communicators play a vital role in guiding companies through this transition, ensuring that their communications approach aligns with evolving regulatory requirements and industry best practices.

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