DCMS Digital Secretary hails UK safety tech sector as online harms regulation is confirmed

Oliver Dowden visits the offices of UK safety tech company SafeToNet to publicise new measures.

Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden has highlighted the vital role played by the safety tech sector as part of an announcement of new laws to make the UK a safer place to be online.

Under the UK’s new online safety laws, announced on 15 December 2020, social media sites, websites, apps and other services which host user-generated content or allow people to talk to others online will need to remove and limit the spread of illegal content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content.

For the announcement, Oliver Dowden visited the offices of UK safety tech company SafeToNet to learn more  about the suite of products it has developed to protect children online. In a video interview filmed during the visit, Oliver Dowden hailed the UK’s ‘fantastic safety tech firms that are leading the world’.  

Richard Pursey, SafeToNet Group CEO, said:

“Online safety is a fundamental human right. That is why we are so proud to support the UK Government, who are leading the way in tackling online harm. The forthcoming legislation marks a pivotal moment for online safety, one that we hope will mean social platforms are made safe by design. This action can’t come soon enough: As our lives continue to become more digital, ourselves and our children are increasingly exposed to online threats. The UK safety-tech industry is leading the way with SafeToNet playing its part to make online harms a thing of the past.”

The government also confirmed a number of measures through which the UK government is supporting growth of the safety tech sector, and helping to ensure that companies have access to the technologies and tools they need to support safer online communities. These measures include:

  • Delivering the Safety Tech Innovation Network, the world’s first forum for safety tech providers to collaborate and promote their work to potential users and investors
  • Delivering a new £2.6m project to prototype how better use of data around online harms can lead to improved Artificial Intelligence systems, and deliver better outcomes for citizens
  • Helping to organise trade missions to priority safety tech export markets
  • Collaborating across sectors, including with the UK Online Safety Tech Industry Association, to identify opportunities for innovation, adoption and promotion of safety tech
  • Exploring ways in which best practices in online safety can be included in standards and guidance for buying, building and reusing government technology, such as the Technology Code of Practice
  • Developing a Safety Tech Sector Strategy, to guide future priorities for sector support

Safety Tech in 2020

The announcement comes at the end of an exciting year for the emerging UK safety tech sector. 

In March 2020, DCMS Minister Caroline Dinenage met safety tech sector leaders to discuss how the government could best support sector growth and to affirm support for the new Online Safety Tech Industry Association, OSTIA.

This was followed In May by the publication of a detailed study of the UK safety technology sector, ‘Safer technology, safer users: The UK as a world leader in Safety Tech’. The study highlighted significant growth within the sector, with the number of dedicated online safety firms doubling in the last five years and investment increasing more than eight-fold in 2019.

The Safety Tech Providers Directory, co-published by DCMS and DIT in August, brought together into one place for the first time details of more than 70 safety tech companies.

A Safety Tech Unconference held in September brought almost 200 people together from across the UK safety tech sector, to discuss common issues and develop networks. 

The launch of the Safety Tech Innovation Network helped to further build the community, which also came together in November to discuss how the sector might respond to diversity and inclusion, and develop products around user needs.

Safety tech also started to scale up on the international stage, when a Safety Tech Open Forum held as part of the UN Internet Governance Forum in November brought together a panel of experts to debate the international potential of the sector. 

The profile of the sector is likely to grow further during 2021 with the Safety Tech Expo, an international showcase for the best of safety tech, which is due to take place in March 2021.

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