VSP Regulation: Ofcom launches second round of consultation on harm

posted on 07 April, 2021   (public)

Video-sharing platforms and harmful content: how to protect users against harmful content?

From 1 November 2020, video-sharing platforms (VSPs) are required to take appropriate measures to protect the general public from “relevant harmful material” and the minors from “restricted material”, including content which might impair their physical, mental or moral development.

To support providers to determine the best appropriate measures to implement within their services, Ofcom (UK) released on 24 March new draft guidance which is open to consultation until 2 June 2021.

In this document, Ofcom provides:

  • Indicators to identify harmful and restricted material
  • Examples of appropriate measures, recommendations and factors to consider by VSP providers.
  • Key principles to follow when implementing protective measures (such as fairness and user’s rights, ease of use, effectiveness, transparency, evolving measures)
  •  Ofcom’s approach to monitoring and enforcement.

The regulator’s duty will be to ensure that VSP providers comply with the new statutory obligations, through its guidance, monitoring and enforcement. Ofcom underlines in its guidance that this is a learning process, aimed at being updated and developed as user behaviours, technology and Ofcom’s understanding of effective protection evolves.  

This guidance is the second guidance document released by Ofcom. The first one on the scope of the statutory framework (Who needs to notify to Ofcom) was published on 10 March 2021 and the third one on advertising is expected in the next months.

Supporting documents also provided by Ofcom:

It is worth highlighting that Ofcom, guided by an evidence-based approach, has commissioned research to inform their approach to VSP regulation. A set of highly interesting reports is published together with the guidance document. 

Understanding online hate: a report from the Alan Turing Institute
(academic research based on an expansive definition of online hate taking into account the range of hateful content online and the complexity of its nature, dynamics and prevalence)

Research on the protection of minors: a report from the University of East London
(academic research to understand what might impair the physical, mental and moral development of minors using VSPs)

User experience of potential online harms within video-sharing platforms: a report from Yonder
(consumer research on VSP users’ exposure to 26 potential online harms)

Source: Ofcom