Expert’s Corner with Policy Principal Andrew Bennett

Andrew Bennett is a Policy Principal at Form Ventures, a U.K. VC fund investing in start-ups where regulation is a driver of success. Andrew’s expertise is in regulatory strategy, having worked across tech policy at the Tony Blair Institute and founded TxP, a network for people in tech and policy.

How can online platforms keep up with upcoming regulations? What are the most imperative business implications? Do they really matter?

The challenges for different online platforms vary. While some have no idea what their obligations will be, others have a sense of their duties but underestimate the time and effort required to build a fully-fledged trust and safety function. This is not just a new form to fill in or a tick-box exercise: new rules come with new enforcement powers, so many platforms will need to resource significant internal capability, systems and tooling to avoid challenges down the road. For companies trying to keep up, it’s worth looking out for regulators’ guidance. For example, despite the U.K. pausing the passage of its Online Safety Bill for now, the regulator, Ofcom, has published its Roadmap to regulation which sets out a timeline for actions services will need to take.

What will be the consequences for platforms who aren’t compliant on day one?

As Dorothy Chou said in our recent newsletter, “the more start-ups have worked through the rules and institutions they want to operate within, the more freedom they will ultimately have to focus on the work they do best.”

That’s absolutely true of the online safety space, so despite the initial effort, it’s well worth getting on top of what will be required by cross-referencing the rules against how your service works, how you run your internal processes, and what’s in your community standards.

Fortunately, companies do still have time to get their heads around their obligations. In the EU, while large online platforms will need to comply within four months of being designated by the Commission, smaller platforms will have longer. In the U.K., once platforms’ duties come into force there will still be a period where Ofcom, the regulator, will be consulting on the language of its guidance and how it will enforce the rules on illegal harms, child safety and transparency reporting. Enforcement will also be proportional to the platform and risk in question. These will include fees for registering with the regulator. But we’re yet to see what that means in practice.

By 2024, however, services will need to be submitting their risk assessments and fully complying with the rules. If they don’t, akin to GDPR, they risk fines of up to £18m or 10% of global annual turnover (whichever is higher) — and under the EU’s DSA, fines could amount to 6% of global turnover. And complying with a full investigation from the regulator will also take focus and resources away from the business’ core job.

What are the key differences between the EU’s Digital Services Act (DSA) and the U.K.’s Online Safety Bill (OSB)? What impact will they have on online platforms?

Despite sharing a philosophy on how to regulate content, there are significant differences between the U.K. and EU’s approaches that mean platforms will need to prepare for different rules and different compliance processes — unfortunately this will mean additional costs and a limit to how much can be fixed and shared across different markets.

Specifically, the DSA goes further on rules around targeted advertising and external audit processes, while also having stronger protections for intermediary liability. For example, if Ofcom finds your service to be in breach of your duties, it may place a ‘proactive monitoring requirement’ on you. This was previously prohibited under the EU’s eCommerce Directive, except for terrorism and CSEA, and the DSA retains this approach. The OSB also bundles in other issues such as ID verification, duties for platforms to prevent children accessing pornography, and allowing the regulator to require platforms to use specific content moderation technology.

Tighter and more stringent regulations can often be seen as governments abusing their power and restricting freedom of speech and expression. It has also been argued that the OSB will create potential obstacles for small and medium businesses. Do you think the proposed legislation sufficiently protects online innovation and free speech?

There are clearly challenges with the OSB in its current form — from ambiguity in the wording of duties that might incentivize overzealous enforcement (undermining free expression), to contradictory duties that make it hard for services to comply at all. The new rules will also impose direct costs that make it harder not only for new social start-ups to scale, but also services in adjacent sectors — which policymakers may not even realize will be caught up in this — which have some user-to-user aspect to their work.

But it’s hard for anyone to argue that there isn’t a clear problem with online safety that needs addressing, and states have a sovereign right to legislate. For a small number of services, it might be worth engaging with the policy process to help improve the rules. But ultimately, there is still strong political momentum behind the OSB and the base case for all firms should be to adapt to the reality that this is happening.

More posts like this

We want content moderation to enhance your users’ experience and so they can find their special one more easily.

Podcast Moderation at Scale: Leveraging AI to Manage Content

The podcasting industry has experienced an explosive growth in recent years, with millions of episodes being published across various platforms every day. As the volume of audio content surges, ensuring a safe and trustworthy podcast environment becomes a paramount concern. Podcast moderation plays a crucial role in filtering and managing podcast episodes to prevent the…
4 minutes

Content Moderators : How to protect their Mental Health ? 

Content moderation has become an essential aspect of managing online platforms and ensuring a safe user experience. Behind the scenes, content moderators play a crucial role in reviewing user-generated content, filtering out harmful or inappropriate materials, and upholding community guidelines. However, the task of content moderation is not without its challenges, as it exposes moderators…
4 minutes

Text Moderation: Scale your content moderation with AI

In today's interconnected world, text-based communication has become a fundamental part of our daily lives. However, with the exponential growth of user-generated text content on digital platforms, ensuring a safe and inclusive online environment has become a daunting task. Text moderation plays a critical role in filtering and managing user-generated content to prevent harmful or…
4 minutes

Audio Moderation: AI-Driven Strategies to Combat Online Threats

In today's digitally-driven world, audio content has become an integral part of online platforms, ranging from podcasts and audiobooks to user-generated audio clips on social media. With the increasing volume of audio content being generated daily, audio moderation has become a critical aspect of maintaining a safe and positive user experience. Audio moderation involves systematically…
4 minutes

Ready or Not, AI Is Coming to Content Moderation

As digital platforms and online communities continue to grow, content moderation becomes increasingly critical to ensure safe and positive user experiences. Manual content moderation by human moderators is effective but often falls short when dealing with the scale and complexity of user-generated content. Ready or not, AI is coming to content moderation operations, revolutionizing the…
5 minutes

The Evolution of Content Moderation Rules Throughout The Years

The birth of the digital public sphere This article is contributed by Ahmed Medien. Online forums and social marketplaces have become a large part of the internet in the past 20 years since the early bulletin boards on the internet and AOL chat rooms. Today, users moved primarily to social platforms, platforms that host user-generated content. These…
7 minutes

Video Moderation : It’s Scale or Fail with AI

In the digital age, video content has become a driving force across online platforms, shaping the way we communicate, entertain, and share experiences. With this exponential growth, content moderation has become a critical aspect of maintaining a safe and inclusive online environment. The sheer volume of user-generated videos poses significant challenges for platforms, necessitating advanced…
4 minutes

AI Ethics Expert’s Corner : Kyle Dent, Head of AI Ethics

This month we’ve added a new “Expert’s Corner” feature starting with an interview with our own Kyle Dent, who recently joined Checkstep. He answers questions about AI ethics and some of the challenges of content moderation. AI Ethics FAQ with Kyle Dent If you would like to catch up on other thought leadership pieces by…
4 minutes

Misinformation Expert’s Corner : Preslav Nakov, AI and Fake News

Preslav Nakov has established himself as one of the leading experts on the use of AI against propaganda and disinformation. He has been very influential in the field of natural language processing and text mining, publishing hundreds of peer reviewed research papers. He spoke to us about his work dealing with the ongoing problem of…
8 minutes

Checkstep Raises $1.8M Seed Funding to Combat Online Toxicity

Early stage startup gets funding for R&D effort to develop advanced content moderation technology We’re thrilled to announce that Checkstep recently closed a $1.8m seed funding round to further develop our advanced AI product offering contextual content moderation. The round was carefully selected to be diverse, international, and with a significant added value to our business. Influential personalities…
3 minutes

Expert’s Corner with Checkstep CEO Guillaume Bouchard

This month’s expert is Checkstep’s CEO and Co-Founder Guillaume Bouchard. After exiting his previous company, Bloomsbury AI to Facebook, he’s on a mission to better prepare online platforms against all types of online harm. He has a PhD in applied mathematics and machine learning from INRIA, France. 12 years of scientific research experience at Xerox…
3 minutes

Expert’s Corner with Community Building Expert Todd Nilson

Checkstep interviews expert in online community building Todd Nilson leads transformational technology projects for major brands and organizations. He specializes in online communities, digital workplaces, social listening analysis, competitive intelligence, game thinking, employer branding, and virtual collaboration. Todd has managed teams and engagements with national and global consultancy firms specialized in online communities and the…
7 minutes

Blowing the Whistle on Facebook

Wondering what all the fuss is around the Facebook Papers? Get the lowdown here. A large trove of recently leaked documents from Meta/Facebook promises to keep the social platform in the news, and in hot water, for some time to come. While other recent “Paper” investigations (think Panama and Paradise) have revealed fraud, tax evasion,…
7 minutes

Expert’s Corner with Head of Research Isabelle Augenstein

This month we were very happy to sit down with one of the brains behind Checkstep who is also a recognized talent among European academics. She is the co-head of research at Checkstep and also an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen. She currently holds a prestigious DFF Sapere Aude Research Leader fellowship on ‘Learning to…
5 minutes

How to use Content Moderation to Build a Positive Brand Image

The idea of reputation has changed dramatically in the digital age, moving from conventional word-of-mouth to the wide world of user-generated material on the internet. Reputation has a long history that reflects changes in communication styles, cultural developments, and technological advancements. The importance of internet reviews has been highlighted by recent research conducted by Bright…
5 minutes

Prevent unwanted content from reaching your platform

Speak to one of our experts and learn about using AI to protect your platform
Talk to an expert