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Internet: Safety

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN 6934, tabled on 23 May 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, for what reason Section 103, Chapter 8 of the Draft Online Safety Bill, relating to Media Literacy did not appear in the Online Safety Bill introduced on 11 May 2022; and if she will make a statement.

Answered on

26 May 2022

Ofcom has an existing statutory duty to promote media literacy under section 11 of the Communications Act (2003). Clause 103 of the draft Online Safety Bill clarified Ofcom’s responsibilities under this duty but did not grant Ofcom any new powers or duties. On 6 December 2021, ‘Ofcom’s Approach to Online Media Literacy’ was published. This strategy document published by Ofcom outlined its plans to expand its media literacy programme in a manner which substantially met the responsibilities set out in the draft Bill. As such, it is no longer necessary to include these clarifications in primary legislation.

The Online Safety Bill increases Ofcom’s powers relating to media literacy. Ofcom’s transparency reporting and information gathering powers cover media literacy and give Ofcom enhanced oversight on industry spend and activity. DCMS’s Secretary of State has powers to direct Ofcom’s media literacy activity in special circumstances, for example where there is a significant threat to public health as a result of health misinformation. The Bill also directs in-scope companies to consider measures to promote users’ media literacy as part of the risk assessment process.

Media literacy remains a vital part of the government’s agenda to support online safety. In April 2022 the government published its second Media Literacy Action Plan which sets out an ambitious expansion of its media literacy programme, supported by over £2m of funding.

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