New Offences Introduced Under New Online Safety Bill


The government has made a number of additions to the Online Safety Bill that will see more online behaviour being made illegal.

A press release issued by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport on 4 February 2022 details three additional criminal offences that will be introduced to the Bill, as proposed by the Law Commission, to ensure that criminal law is fit for the internet age. Computer companies will be under a legal obligation to remove this type of criminal content as soon as possible.

The three new offences are:

  • When communications are made or posted to communicate a threat of serious damage, this is known as a ‘genuinely threatening’ communications offence.
  • A harm-based communications offence that captures messages delivered with the intent to damage others without a good reason.
  • When a person transmits a communication that they know is false with the goal to cause non-trivial emotional, psychological, or physical harm, they are committing a crime.

Additional priority has also been given in relation to revenge porn, hate crime, fraud, the selling of illegal narcotics or weapons, the advocacy or assistance of suicide, people smuggling, and sexual exploitation are among the prohibited offences to be written on the bill’s face. Terrorism and sexual abuse of children are already covered.

By naming these offences on the face of the law, they will no longer need to be defined in supplementary legislation, and Ofcom will be able to take more aggressive enforcement action against internet companies that fail to remove the designated illegal information.

Previously, companies would have been required to remove such content after users reported it, but now they must be proactive and avoid exposing individuals in the first place.

Non-compliant sites will be subject to fines of up to ten percent of their annual worldwide turnover, or they may be blocked from accessing the UK.

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “Our world-leading bill will safeguard children from online abuse and harms, while also preventing the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content and ensuring that terrorists have no safe haven online.”

In addition, the Online Safety Bill will also require pornographic websites to implement robust age verification. Many only have a basic pop-up asking if the user is 18 or older, but these only require a ‘click’ to access the pornographic content.

The new regulation will make it illegal to browse websites in the United Kingdom unless they utilise an age verification mechanism such as credit card entry or a third-party verification service.

It states that this is to prevent minors from viewing indecent images and videos.

According to the BBC, the Online Safety Bill will be finalised and brought to Parliament in the “coming few months.” To become legislation, it will need a majority vote of MPs.


Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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