The Online Safety Bill – Does It Go Far Enough? – Greta Barkle and Guevara Leacock write for Lawyer Monthly

The Online Safety Bill – Does It Go Far Enough? – Greta Barkle and Guevara Leacock write for Lawyer Monthly

BCL associate Greta Barkle and legal assistant Guevara Leacock’s article ‘The Online Safety Bill – Does It Go Far Enough?’ has been published by Lawyer Monthly.

Here’s an extract from the article:

“Eagerly awaited, the draft Online Safety Bill has finally been published, delivering on the government’s manifesto commitment to make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online”. The Bill has its genesis in the Online Harms White Paper, published over two years ago in response to widespread concern at the malign underbelly of the internet. But following passionate lobbying by stakeholders, is the result a Bill which has tried so hard to please all interested parties that it ends up satisfying no-one?

Elusive duty of care

The cornerstone of the Bill is a new ‘duty of care’ placed on service providers to protect individuals from ‘harm’. It will apply to providers both based in the UK and – nebulously – those having ‘links’ here. In the government’s sights is the gamut of illegal and legal online content, from child sexual exploitation material and terrorist activity to cyber-bullying and trolling.

The ‘duty of care’ will apply to search engines and providers of internet services which allow individuals to upload and share user-generated content. In practical terms, this net will catch social media giants such as Facebook as well as less high-profile platforms such as public discussion forums.

As regards illegal content, the duty will force all in-scope companies to take proportionate steps to reduce and manage the risk of harm to individuals using their platforms. High risk ‘category 1’ providers – the big tech titans with large user-bases or which offer wide content-sharing functionality – will have the additional burden of tackling content that, though lawful, is deemed harmful, such as the encouragement of self-harm and misinformation.

Adding a further level of complexity, the regulatory framework will apply to both public communication channels and services where users expect a greater degree of privacy, such as online instant messaging services and closed social media groups.

Quite how service providers will be expected to meet these onerous new obligations is not specified in the Bill and, instead, they must wait for full Codes of Practice to be issued.”

This article was published by Lawyer Monthly on 27/05/21. Read the full version on their website.

Greta Barkle is a New Zealand qualified lawyer specialising in business crime, regulatory investigations, extradition and cybercrime. Prior to joining BCL Solicitors LLP, Greta worked on a range of complex disputes, including claims against the New Zealand Police and Government Communications Security Bureau in relation to dawn raids and unlawful surveillance of communications. Greta also assisted counsel in New Zealand’s leading white collar crime and extradition case and is an experienced criminal and regulatory prosecutor.

Guevara Leacock is a legal assistant specialising in all aspects of white-collar crime; corporate investigations; dispute resolution; mutual legal assistance and regulatory law. He has been involved in matters concerning the FCA, HMRC, SFO, private prosecutions, directors’ liability and extradition. Guevara takes a keen interest in data protection and information law, and has recently worked on cases involving legal professional privilege in the context of privacy-related matters.