The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published its first whitepaper on a proposed Online Harms Bill.

As part of the body’s planned changes, it wants Ofcom to become the official regulator of ‘online environments’ in the UK.

The DCMS also wants to increase levels of trust between the general public and big technology companies, which it believes is declining.

Significant changes could be around the corner for online companies 

The whitepaper was released earlier this week. When presenting the document to the House of Commons, Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said:

“People in the UK spend an average of 4 hours and 2 minutes on the internet every day. Of course, that technology has improved our lives in countless ways.

“But as members across the House know, too many people are still exposed to the worst elements of the web. Those interactions may be virtual, but they are causing real harm.”

He then went on to say:

“Trust in tech is falling. That is bad for the public, and it’s bad for the tech companies.”

If it became the digital regulator, Ofcom would have the ability to block access and enact other punitive measures against digital platforms which it perceived as not doing enough to protect users from online harms. Another major proposal in the shape of fines of “up to £18 million, or 10% of annual turnover” has also been touted for tech companies who fail to keep users safe.

Sensible regulations are necessary to address users’ concerns about going online 

Legislation to regulate online environments was first proposed when former PM Theresa May was in power. The intention was for major tech companies to monitor harmful online content, such as images of sexual abuse and terrorism-related content, as well as misinformation.

Ofcom CEO Dame Melanie Dawes spoke about the possible implementation of the new bill.

“Being online brings huge benefits, but four in five people have concerns about it. That shows the need for sensible, balanced rules that protect users from serious harm, but also recognise the great things about online, including free expression.

“We’re gearing up for the task by acquiring new technology and data skills, and we’ll work with Parliament as it finalises the plans.”

Why is the Online Harms Bill important for gambling companies? 

The launch of the first Online Harms Bill proposals paper comes not long after the DCMS commenced its review of the 2005 Gambling Act. The DCMS will look at corporate conduct in particular, as well as duty of care.

It’s also worth noting that the DCMS has already said that the country’s gambling industry needs to change its relationship with communities, sports clubs, and other businesses.