Why Parliament must act on the Online Safety Bill

24 May 2022 | Full Fact team

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

MPs can take action to protect us all from harmful misinformation


What is the Online Safety Bill?

The Online Safety Bill will bring in new rules for internet companies to make sure their users are protected from harms that can take place on their platforms. 

As well as tackling and removing illegal material online, and better protecting young people, the Bill sets out how the biggest internet companies with the highest risk and reach will have to tackle harmful content and activity for adults.

Why does the Online Safety Bill matter to me?

Bad information ruins lives—it damages public debate, risks public health, and erodes trust. The Online Safety Bill can and should put measures in place to protect us.

But the current plans do not go far enough and fall far short of the Government’s intended aim of making the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

At Full Fact, we’re concerned at how quickly and easily bad information can spread online.

We have countered misused statistics on the effectiveness of vaccines, harmful claims on treatments and cures, and conflicting advice for pregnant women. We’ve also rebutted: misinterpreted research that undermines public trust and debate, conspiracy theories on 5G, faked video footage on the war in Ukraine, as well as many false claims about MPs expenses.

The Government has not learnt lessons from the last few years, which have seen Covid-19 misinformation undermine public health, conspiracy theories which lead to offline attacks, and disinformation - including on the war in Ukraine - spread rapidly. 

  • 74% of people are worried about the spread of misinformation and believe false information online has a negative effect on democracy in the UK. (Full Fact, 2021).
  • A third of internet users were unaware of the potential for inaccurate or biased information online (Ofcom, 2022).
  • Of those who said they saw news about Covid-19 on social media, 49% say they mostly saw conflicting facts about it (Reuters, 2020).

As it stands, the Online Safety Bill will continue to leave the public vulnerable and exposed to online harms.  

What can be done to tackle harmful misinformation online? 

Without significant changes, this new law will be a missed opportunity to protect all of us from harm.

Full Fact, with many others, is calling for the Online Safety Bill to be strengthened in the following ways: 

  • To better tackle harmful misinformation and disinformation the Bill should enhance the safety duties of the online platforms, the remit of the Advisory Committee, and Ofcom’s role in information incidents, as well as setting out what types of harm will be covered by the legislation
  • The Bill should strengthen media literacy with a new duty and requirements for the digital age so everyone in the UK is better protected from bad information online
  • The Bill should protect freedom of expression online by minimising content restriction or ‘take down’; address loopholes in the protections for content of democratic importance and journalistic content; and introduce greater transparency for Government interventions

The Online Safety Bill should be a turning point in tackling harms caused by misinformation and disinformation, but currently it has no credible plan to do so. As it stands, there is a continued risk of harm to individuals and communities, an undermining of public health, and unintentional but long-term damage to public debate.

The next few weeks are crucial

The Bill is currently making progress in the House of Commons, and soon your MP will be able to vote on important changes that can limit the damage caused by bad information, and end internet companies’ ability to make unaccountable decisions for UK internet users from offices on the other side of the world.

Your MP can use their vote in the House of Commons to ensure the Online Safety Bill has stronger provisions to protect us all from mis- and disinformation.

Bad information can ruin, and in extreme cases, cost lives. Your support can help to make sure harmful misinformation is tackled in the Online Safety Bill. 

Enter your postcode to email your MP and ask them to take action today.

Get started with writing to your MP and asking them to improve the Online Safety Bill

MP photos © Parliament (CC-BY 3.0)

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.