5Rights to review UK’s draft children’s code against objectives of the Online Safety Act

5Rights Foundation welcomes the launch of the consultation on the draft Children’s Safety Code of Practice. To deliver on the objectives of the Online Safety Act and the expectations of children and parents, the code must embed child safety into product design, and effectively hold tech companies to account.

Following six years of extensive political and public debate, the UK’s online regulator, Ofcom, has today launched its draft Children’s Safety Code of Practice - the child safety framework of the Online Safety Act.

5Rights welcomes the launch of the draft code, which, if robust, could be genuinely transformative for children’s experiences online, embedding safety by design principles directly into regulation. Over the next two months, we will be forensically reviewing the draft code and measuring it against the rights, demands and needs of children, set out in our report. In our response to the consultation, we will assess how the draft code meets the key objectives of the Act – to make the services built by tech companies safe by design and to deliver a high standard of protection for children.

5Rights founder and chair, Baroness Beeban Kidron:

“I welcome the publication of Ofcom’s Draft Children’s Code today and look forward to reading it in detail over the next few days. Parliamentarians, parents and children have all cried out for changes to digital products and services that are poorly designed, create toxic environments and fail to protect children from harm. When looking at the measures set out by Ofcom in their draft code, the only question to answer is, do they bring the changes that have been called for?

“The regime must be agile enough to anticipate new products and behaviours, robust in taking action against known harms, and call time on the willful disregard for child safety that the sector has shown for the last two decades – anything less will be a disappointment.”

Along with the Children’s Coalition for Online Safety, 5Rights advocated for tougher measures to be included in the final iteration of the regulation which passed in October 2023. Last month, the coalition came together again as 21 organisations, led by 5Rights, to set out a series of baseline requirements that we expect to see reflected in Ofcom’s guidance. The 5 core requirements are for companies to:

  1. Give high standards of protection to children using high-risk services, irrespective of the size of the service.
  2. Prioritise children’s safety in product design and development.
  3. Take a comprehensive approach to risk mitigation that considers age-appropriate access to content, features and functionalities, safety and privacy settings, user reporting, media literacy, and the advice of external experts and children themselves.
  4. Give safety teams sufficient resources and autonomy to prioritise children’s best interests, even when these conflict with commercial interests.
  5. Consider the impact of their business model on safety and ensure governance and accountability checks and balances are strong.

Ofcom will be consulting on the contents of the draft until July 17th.