Client Story

Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sports

Leading the world to make social media a safer space

The UK government wants to be a world leader in protecting the public from online harms. Our regulatory experts played a key role in enabling the UK government to make key decisions around the establishment of a new Online Safety Regulator.

Key successes

  • Identified the capabilities that the new Online Safety Regulator would need
  • Utilised our regulatory expertise to advise on whether the new regulator should be stand-alone or established within an existing regulator
  • Undertook cost and economic modelling to recommend how the Online Safety Regulator should be funded

Enabling a positive experience online

Social media offers many positives – an opportunity to build connections, create and share content, and communicate ideas and news. But it has a negative impact too. It can be used to stream terrorist attacks, radicalise young people, spread gang culture and enable the sexual exploitation of children. These are some of the most serious examples of the ‘online harms’ that take place in what is largely unregulated space. A recent Ofcom report showed that 79 per cent of 12-15 year old internet users reported having had at least one potentially harmful experience online in the previous 12 months.

Following the publishing of the UK Government’s Online Harms White Paper, we advised the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on the most suitable way to enforce a new regulatory framework and how that regulator should be funded.

We really appreciated the structure and clarity of PA's work. Across a complex, sometimes technical challenge, PA’s experience in the regulatory field was very valuable. Their work helped form the evidence base for us to reach an informed and confident decision on the best way forward.”
Director of Security and Online Harms

Bringing the right expertise

Using our extensive experience in establishing more than 10 new regulators in the last five years, we worked with the DCMS to develop the high-level regulatory model and to identify the capabilities and organisational design that the new regulator would need. From this, we assessed whether the new Online Safety Regulator should be established as a new, standalone regulator or whether its activities should be undertaken by an existing regulator. We also explored the costs of different options as well as the fit between different regulatory regimes. This work demanded a diverse mix of expertise – extensive experience of designing and setting up a new regulator, financial and economic modelling, organisational design and good knowledge of online harms. Having worked with organisations like the WeProtect Global Alliance to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse, we were able to bring extensive experience and knowledge.

With our analysis, DCMS was able to make an informed decision on the best way forward. They recently announced that they are minded to appoint Ofcom as the Online Safety Regulator, helping to make the internet a safer place.

PA were instrumental in helping us find the right balance between appointing an effective regulator and optimising costs. They developed a cost model that let us explore the impact of different approaches in detail, and which provided clear evidence to back up our eventual decision.”
Head of Economics, Security and Online harms

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