New tech trade body to join fight against online harms

kidsBoth the Government and the Information Commissioner’s Office have backed the launch of a new online industry body, aimed at cracking down on harmful material posted online, despite the organisation having no legal powers.

The Online Safety Tech Industry Association (Ostia) will bring together more than a dozen tech firms that focus on online safety, as well as organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation and the NSPCC.

The group aims to boost awareness and understanding of online safety technologies and to influence Government policy and regulation and has three core aims:

– Provide a voice of hope by informing policy makers, technology providers and the general public about online safety technologies;

– Create collective influence on policy, regulation and broader support for the sector;

– Provide a forum for companies contributing towards the goal of online safety.

The body will be led by Edinburgh-based cyber firm Cyan Forensics and start-up advisory group Public. Ostia will be chaired by Cyan Forensics chief executive Ian Stevenson, while its members include Yoti, Crisp, Securium, Super Awesome and Safe To Net – all companies that have built the technology that can deliver transformation.

Stevenson said: “The topic of online safety is wide-ranging and hugely complex. Unfortunately for regulators and providers, it is made up of many individual problems; there is no silver bullet that will solve the whole issue.

“By focusing on specific, actionable areas, we can work together to demonstrate how the thriving safety-related products and services market will play a significant role in helping companies protect the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content, while driving digital growth.”

The Government has already confirmed plans for a new legal duty of care for the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, which have been mostly allowed to self-regulate the content their users publish.

It followed the publication of the Online Harms White Paper, which has ultimately led to Ofcom being given greater powers as the UK’s first Internet regulator.

And, earlier this year, the ICO published new rules for “age-appropriate design”, which, if broken, could trigger the threat of GDPR-style fines for ignoring a raft the measures designed to protect children from content which could leave them open to sexual abuse, self-harm and suicide.

Some have already questioned the need for yet another organisation, however, digital minister Caroline Dinenage said: “We are determined to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and have set out world-leading proposals to put a duty of care on online companies, enforced by an independent regulator.

“We are backing the industry to support our work by developing new products to improve online security and drive growth in the digital economy. This new association will help bring together relevant organisations to collaborate, innovate and create a safer online world.”

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