Startups share the Government’s goal of a safer internet. Today’s founders have grown up in the shadow of the biggest social media platforms, and many startups were created explicitly because their creators wanted to offer alternatives to consumers. But good intentions do not equate to good policy.
The Government’s Online Safety Bill will regulate a wide range of both illegal and so-called ”harmful content”. It plans to do this by making any business that enables, or could enable, user-to-user interaction – for example chat forums, cloud storage and certain productivity tools – have systems and processes in place to deal with content deemed unacceptable by the legislation. This includes content which is legal. The systems and processes platforms are expected to take are complex and exacting, and effectively make platforms liable for the legal actions of their users.
By the Government’s own estimates, more than 25,000 businesses and other organisations will fall under scope of the new rules. And the Government’s impact assessment acknowledges that 180,000 businesses will have to consider whether they are in scope, the overwhelming majority of which would be small and micro platforms.
The Online Safety Bill is a ticking time bomb for the UK’s startup ecosystem, but it can be defused. There are a number of significant improvements that will need to be made to the Bill for it to make a positive impact for individuals and society, and for it to be workable for startups and business more broadly. These improvements would protect the UK’s world-leading tech ecosystem while achieving the Bill’s aims.
That’s why today we have released our report on the impact of the Online Safety Bill on the UK’s startups – which you can find here.