ODA welcomes British Government plans for a targeted approach to online safety

The ODA has welcomed the British Government’s plans for regulating services to prevent child sexual exploitation, harm, radicalisation/terrorism and on ways of addressing those who may host or post legal but arguably offensive content.

The Government has appointed Ofcom as the regulator responsible for standards, reporting and compliance with internet safety requirements. It has made clear the planned regime with its requirements for notice and take down arrangements, and how blocks to child exploitation, terrorism, and radicalisation should apply only to companies that allow the sharing of user-generated content – for example, through comments, forums or video sharing. The Government estimates fewer than 5 per cent of UK businesses will be in scope.

This intention has to be codified by Ofcom, but our clear understanding is that the definition does not include the generality of dating services. Clearly, that may change if or when dating services offer a wider range of services that share more or most of the characteristics of social media platforms.

Definitions that seem to exclude services from specific regulatory duties here seem to reflect other ones used recently by the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) used when limiting the range of their Age Appropriate Design Code…in terms that also exclude dating services from that Code.

Arrangements or a Code specific to dating services is highly unlikely. That does not mean the Government is unaware of the sector or the risks we work to minimise.

The degree of comfort the Government has in dating services comes from their dialogue with the ODA and leading providers, as well as the assurances we could give that this is a sector that is materially different from some platforms where the harms referenced are real and substantial and that dating providers take their responsibilities seriously. That is shown with the establishment of the ODA, our first Code, subsequent standards and good practice material and, now, by the Framework for User Safety.

In talks with Government last week the ODA spoke of the measures taken to prevent under-age access, of the infrequency of this as an issue, and the precautionary steps we take to highlight parental tools to prevent online access by kids. This was recognised now, as it was previously, as a proportionate response to the issue. The focus on moderation, reporting, assurance/verification are valued by officials. We were encouraged to continue this work to keep services safe and to ensure Ofcom had a good understanding of our activities.



The ODA Safety First campaign information can be found here.

The Government statement on online safety can be found here.

Contact: info@onlinedatingassociation.org.uk