Expectations under the Government’s ‘Duty of Care’ to address online harms

As part of the Government’s Online Harms White Paper, a new statutory duty of care will be established to make companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users. Specific expectations of companies were set out within the White Paper, aiming to encourage companies to take early action.

While it will be for the new regulator to produce codes of practice when it becomes operational, the Government expects companies to take action now to tackle harmful content or activity on their services. More details of what is considered as harmful content or activity within the scope of the White Paper can be found here.

Due to the range of services within the scope of the White Paper, not all expectations are applicable to all companies.

Duty of Care: expectations

As an indication of compliance with the overarching duty of care to keep users safe, the Government envisages that, where relevant, companies in scope will:

  • Ensure their relevant terms and conditions meet standards set by the regulator and reflect the codes of practice as appropriate.
  • Enforce their own relevant terms and conditions effectively and consistently.
  • Prevent known terrorist or CSEA content being made available to users.
  • Take prompt, transparent and effective action following user reporting.
  • Support law enforcement investigations to bring criminals who break the law online to justice.
  • Direct users who have suffered harm to support.
  • Regularly review their efforts in tackling harm and adapt their internal processes to drive continuous improvement.

To help achieve these outcomes, the Government expects the regulator to develop codes of practice that set out:

  • Steps to ensure products and services are safe by design.
  • Guidance about how to ensure terms of use are adequate and are understood by users when they sign up to use the service.
  • Measures to ensure that reporting processes and processes for moderating content and activity are transparent and effective.
  • Steps to ensure harmful content or activity is dealt with rapidly.
  • Processes that allow users to appeal the removal of content or other responses, in order to protect users’ rights online.
  • Steps to ensure that users who have experienced harm are directed to, and receive, adequate support.
  • Steps to monitor, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of their processes.

Although not all of the expectations are relevant to the video games industry, there are a number of additional policy and regulatory proposals that may have an impact on games development. For more information on what the White Paper means for the industry, see here.


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