Ofcom has published draft Children's Safety Codes of Practice setting out the new standards for tech giants to protect children under the Online Safety Act.

The draft Codes of Practice set out more than 40 practical steps that services must take to keep children safer online. These include:

  • Ensuring that algorithms which recommend content do not operate in a way that harm children, meaning that harmful material must be filtered out or downranked. Children must also be able to provide negative feedback directly to the recommended feed so it can better learn what content they do not want to see; 
  • More robust age-checking measures to prevent children seeing harmful content such as pornography; and
  • Introducing better content moderation systems and processes that ensure swift action is taken against content harmful to children and a so-called “safe search” function on search engines that restricts inappropriate material. 

Ofcom has warned that social media sites could be named and shamed and banned for under 18s if they fail to comply with new online safety rules and that breaches will lead to other enforcement action, including sizeable fines. Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom Chief Executive also said "We will be publishing league tables so that the public know which companies are implementing the changes and which ones are not.”

In statements, Meta and Snapchat said they had extra protections for under 18s, and offered parental tools to control what children can see on their platforms. 

The Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan urged big tech to take the Codes seriously. She said, "To platforms, my message is engage with us and prepare… Do not wait for enforcement and hefty fines – step up to meet your responsibilities and act now."

Ofcom research over a four week period revealed that 62% of children aged 13-17 report encountering online harm while many consider it an ‘unavoidable’ part of their lives online. 

Over the last 12 months, Ofcom has heard from over 15,000 youngsters about their lives online and spoken with over 7,000 parents, as well as professionals who work with children. The regulator is seeking responses to its consultation on the draft Codes by 17 July, after which it says it expects to publish final versions of them within a year.