October 20, 2023
Developing a ‘minimum-viable product’ for a standards framework to assess online safety compliance solutions
As the Online Safety Bill was set to come into force and the online safety industry experienced rapid growth, there was a pressing need to develop a comprehensive Safety Tech Standards Roadmap. This initiative aimed to support and reinforce the broader online safety regulatory regime. The project set out to define activities for developing Safety Tech standards that would align with the requirements of Her Majesty’s Government (HMG), regulators, and industry stakeholders, all within the timeframe of 2022-2025. A core aim was to create a standardised, user-focused, and evidence-based representation of the standards ecosystem.
Working in partnership with Oliver Wyman, our approach to addressing this requirement involved a multifaceted discovery phase. We conducted approximately 30 dedicated interviews with stakeholders from various sectors, including industry representatives, HMG officials, regulators, standards bodies, and non-governmental organisations. These interviews involved key players from organisations like OSTIA, Two Hat, Roblox, the BBC, the Home Office, the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI), Ofcom, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), the British Standards Institutions (BS), the Internet Watch Foundation, the WePROTECT Global Alliance, and the Centre for Democracy and Technology.
Through this comprehensive stakeholder engagement, we embarked on mapping and reviewing the current state of the online safety standards landscape to identify user needs for a robust system of standards and accreditation. Informed by the insights, we designed and analysed a future standards-setting framework that spanned five critical design dimensions:
The culmination of this work involved the development of a ‘minimum-viable product’ for a standards framework that would support the Online Safety Bill and empower Ofcom’s regulatory authority. We also initiated the creation of a change roadmap that outlined the necessary activities, resources, governance structures, risk management, and more, with a start date in March 2022.
The primary impact of this project lies in its potential to establish a framework of Safety Tech standards that can effectively support the Online Safety Bill and Ofcom’s regulatory powers. This framework will serve as a foundational component of the UK’s world-leading system of online safety regulation. Additionally, it will play a pivotal role in promoting the growth of the Safety Tech industry, contributing to the development of an ecosystem that ensures a safer online environment for users across the United Kingdom.
Through extensive desk research, use case development and stakeholder engagement, we recommended four areas of focus for the EHRC’s Strategic Plan relating to AI and equality and human rights.
Empowering DSIT to assess the Online Safety Bill’s effectiveness with a flexible M&E framework informed by robust research
Researching accreditation approaches across the technology sector to develop recommendations for a tailored accreditation process for the online safety tech industry
Comprehensive research to equip Ofcom with a deep understanding of online content accessibility via search services, informing online safety guidance
Crafting a comprehensive Interactive Services (IS) Model to provide Ofcom with a common framework for understanding user journeys and platform workflows
Through mixed methods user research we mapped the prevalence and impact of OVAWG, identified key dynamics characterising how these harms occur, and categorised 18 harm types.
Researched innovative design approaches that can support the safety of women and girls on online platforms and services.