Online safety a game of whack-a-mole with ‘too many moles to whack' – Ofcom boss

Maggie Carver said expectations need to be set about the scope of the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Online safety is like a game of whack-a-mole with “far too many moles to whack”, the interim chair of media regulator Ofcom has said.

Maggie Carver, who has been in the position since January, said expectations need to be set about the scope of the upcoming Online Safety Bill.

Ms Carver told the VLV Autumn Conference on Wednesday that the watchdog was working “very constructively” on the legislation with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The forthcoming Bill is expected to force the biggest technology firms to abide by a duty of care to users.

Asked if she thought the Bill would go far enough, she said: “We do need to set expectations, we’re not going to be able to manage everything and that is just the nature of the beast.

“I always say it’s a bit like whack-a-mole where, with the broadcasting code, you can whack every mole.

“But online there are far too many moles to whack.

“What I do think we’re going to do is to make a big difference and we’re going to measure that so I am hopeful… but we’re not going to be able to wipe everything that’s illegal or harmful off the internet.”

On the relationship with the Government and DCMS she added: “All of us are working very constructively to achieve a very effective Bill so I am optimistic about that.

“We have quite a bit of water to go under the bridge but the Ofcom board is working really hard on that.

“We are working with DCMS and Government and they are listening to us.”

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said: “If the Online Safety Bill is to be judged a success it needs to prevent abuse and end the current whack-a-mole approach platforms take to harmful content.

“To do this the legislation needs to be significantly strengthened and compel platforms to work together to stop abuse spreading across different sites and apps before children come to harm.

“This means changing the culture at the top of firms.

“The Bill should put a legal duty on every social media platform to name a senior manager who is responsible for children’s safety and give Ofcom the power to hold them criminally liable for failure.”

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