Online Safety Tech: 2022 Recap

The online safety tech sector continued to grow substantially in the UK and across the globe in 2022. We wanted to take this opportunity to recap some of the key highlights.

Another remarkable year of growth

In January, Paladin Capital released their report, Towards a Safer Nation: The United States ‘Safety Tech’ Market, which detailed the emergence of a $1bn US Safety Tech market. In August, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published their third UK safety tech sectoral analysis report, which showed that the sector is still one of the fastest growing in the UK, with revenues increasing 21% in the last year alone to £381m.

Analysis to date has primarily focused on the United Kingdom and the United States, with the majority (64%) of identified safety tech providers being headquartered in either country. Building on the evidence provided in these markets, in October, PUBLIC partnered with the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA), to publish their report on the international safety tech landscape. The report identifies smaller, emerging pockets of safety tech talent in Canada, Germany, France, Israel, and Ireland. 

With interest in online safety technologies accelerating overseas, the Department for International Trade (DIT) delivered a UK-Singapore Digital Economy Agreement (DEA) Trade Mission in September. This followed a commitment within the DEA, for the UK and Singapore to collaborate in Safety and Security Online, recognising that safe and secure online environments supports the digital economy. The mission provided two UK safety tech businesses with the opportunity to explore the emerging Singapore safety technology ecosystem, develop commercial opportunities and engage with policy makers. 

In November, Germany built on the UK’s G7 Presidency commitments to internet safety principles by hosting a G7 Multi-Stakeholder Conference on eSafety. The conference continued conversations from previous G7 discussions, inviting cross-sector stakeholders to explore in detail how online safety technologies are being used, what further action is needed to make the online environment a safer place, and how digital identities could provide another level of protection.

With the implementation of the Online Safety Act in Australia and the Digital Services Act in the European Union, companies are increasingly being held accountable for the way they moderate their platforms for online harms and abuse. This includes similar laws being proposed or enacted in other jurisdictions, such as  the UK’s Online Safety Bill and California’s Age Appropriate Design Code Act (ACDA).

Trust, Safety and the Digital Economy

Businesses are also increasingly realising the value of building and maintaining trustworthy digital platforms to help protect their brands, engage their staff and support their users. DCMS commissioned Ipsos UK, Perspective Economics and Careful Industries, to carry out research exploring use cases for trust and safety measures across six core sectors of the digital economy. These sectors collectively contribute an estimated £243 billion of value to the UK economy. The Trust, Safety and the Digital Economy report was published in August. 

The importance of online trust and safety to businesses is reflected in the rapid growth of a new specialist profession. This has been supported by the incredible work delivered by the US-based, Trust & Safety Professional Association who delivered a whole host of activities and initiatives to support the emerging profession. One of their most notable successes was the delivery of their flagship event, TrustCon 2022, the world’s first global conference dedicated to trust and safety professionals. 

Investment and innovation

As more and more individuals and businesses recognise the importance of the online safety tech sector, businesses have seen a significant increase in investment and development. This was demonstrated financing rounds including Modulate’s $30 million Series A and Bark Technologies $30 million Series C, as well as the notable acquisitions of Crisp (Kroll), Factmata (Cision) and Oterlu (Reddit).

The online safety tech sector has been boosted by government and third sector initiatives. For example, in the UK, the government awarded five organisations an initial £85,000 each through the Safety Tech Challenge Fund to demonstrate Proof of Concept to detect child sexual abuse material in end-to-end encrypted environments, whilst upholding privacy. Similar funding opportunities followed with the European Commission funding companies EUR16m to combat child sexual abuse as well as End Violence Against Children continuing their Safe Online Inititive which invested an additional $15 million in combatting online child sexual abuse and exploitation. 

Innovation in artificial intelligence (AI) and its applications in online safety was additionally supported by various accelerator programmes and opportunities across the UK. Tech Nation’s Applied AI and PUBLIC’s GovStart programmes both saw several safety tech providers onboarded onto their cohorts. The Safety Tech Innovation Network also delivered a pilot Safety Tech Academy which supported 10 early stage safety tech companies ​​to help them develop a roadmap to scaling their businesses and deliver impact.

Looking to 2023

Overall, the online safety tech sector has seen significant growth in 2022, driven by a combination of government initiatives, advancements in technology, and increased awareness of the importance of online safety. With new companies and technologies entering the market, and existing companies continuing to innovate and improve their offerings, the sector is well-positioned to remain on track to hit £1bn in annual revenues by the mid-2020s.

Through the Safety Tech Innovation Network, we’ll aim to continue to bring you a high-quality mix of news, events and analysis that will help you keep up to speed with the sector as it develops.

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