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IMPRESS is ready to meet public need in response to the Government’s Online Safety Bill

IMPRESS is ready to tackle the harms on news websites not addressed by the government’s Online Safety Bill.

The Bill, introduced to parliament yesterday, includes specific duties for platforms regarding illegal and harmful content and includes an exemption for news publishers. IMPRESS will be able to ensure journalists and news publishers comply with this exemption that could otherwise be used as a loophole to allow news websites to be vehicles for harmful content. 

IMPRESS Head of Regulation Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana said:

“Now more than ever, in times of war and crisis, well-regulated sources of news that provide factual, verified, accurate information to the public are fundamental. The government’s Online Safety Bill could go further by incentivising news publishers to sign up to an independent regulator to ensure harm does not perpetuate due to the light-touch definitions set out in the Bill.”

The Bill sets out an exemption whereby news publishers will not be subject to statutory duties if they meet specific criteria such as having a standards code. IMPRESS will be able to ensure journalists and news publishers comply with the exemption, by providing the only UK press standards code approved in law.  

However, there are loopholes within the exemption that could potentially be exploited. Under the current definitions, anyone can set up a so-called ‘news website’ to publish harmful content by simply copying and pasting a standards code and complaints policy. This prioritises the rights of these unregulated sites over the rights of the public to be protected from harm.

Recognising the potential for public harm, IMPRESS has been working since its inception to bring unregulated news websites into publicly accountable oversight. The law could go further to encourage publishers to follow suit.

This legislation represents an opportunity to rebalance the public’s relationship with online services and to create a safer, more equitable environment for life online. IMPRESS is ready to work with Ofcom and platforms regarding their new obligations.

 


About IMPRESS

IMPRESS regulates 190+ publications in the UK, reaching over 16 million readers in the UK each month. We provide publishers and journalists with the protection and support they need to do their job. We offer complaints adjudication, free arbitration, a comprehensive insurance scheme and a progressive Standards Code. We work in partnership with the public, publishers and key stakeholders to raise the standards of journalism.

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Media enquiries

Alexandra Ward: alexandra@impressreg.org.uk / 020 3325 4289