Video-sharing platforms: Ofcom's plan and approach

Published: 25 January 2024
Last updated: 25 January 2024

The VSP regime came into force in November 2020 and Ofcom launched our VSP Guidance for providers and Plan and Approach in October 2021. During our first year, we found that while all VSPs had some safety measures to protect users, there was room for improvement. Since then, we’ve taken a broader look at the way platforms set, enforce, and test their approach to user safety – including looking at VSPs’ user policies and how VSPs protect children from encountering harm.

This report summarises how we have regulated VSPs so far. We also set out our priorities for the rest of the time the VSP regime is in force – before it is replaced by the online safety regime.

Regulating Video-Sharing Platforms (VSPs) – Our updated plan and approach (PDF, 473.4 KB)

Llwyfannau Rhannu Fideos (VSP) – cynllun a dull gweithredu diweddaraf (PDF, 472.3 KB)

Since 1 November 2020, UK-established video-sharing platforms (VSPs) have been required to take appropriate measures to protect children from videos containing restricted material and all users from videos containing harmful material (for example, certain types of illegal content and incitement to violence or hatred). Ofcom’s role, as the regulator for UK VSPs, is to ensure platforms take appropriate measures to protect their users.

In our plan and approach  to the VSP regime, published in October 2021, we set out our four broad aims: raising standards in user protections, rapidly identifying and addressing areas of non-compliance, increasing transparency across the industry and getting industry and ourselves ready for the future online safety regime.

We also outlined our priority areas for our first year of VSP regulation. These are:

  • Reducing the risk of child sexual abuse material (CSAM)
  • Tackling hate and terror
  • Protections for under-18s
  • Age verification on adult VSPs
  • Reporting and flagging

Since publishing our plan and approach document, we have been engaging with platforms to better understand the steps they are taking to protect users, focusing on the priority areas that are most relevant to their service.

Our 2022 workplan

In December 2021, we wrote to all notified VSPs (PDF, 271.4 KB) to provide more detail on our plans for the upcoming year. These letters signalled the beginning of a new phase of supervisory engagement in this important area of regulation.

Our letters set out the priority areas we consider to be most relevant to each platform, which we are now discussing with them. We will shortly be issuing formal information requests regarding the measures that they have in place to protect users from harm and how they’ve been implemented. We will also ask platforms how they assess which measures are appropriate for their service and how they assess the effectiveness of those measures. This information will be used to improve our understanding of the current standard of safety measures, help us learn from platforms whose measures offer examples of best practice and help us identify any areas where we think there are opportunities for improvement.

You can read our full letter to notified VSPs:

Letter from Kevin Bakhurst: Video-sharing platforms – Ofcom’s plan and approach (PDF, 271.4 KB)

Our approach to supervising platforms

To ensure the most effective use of our resources, we have adopted a structured programme of supervisory engagement, tailored to individual platforms. To determine our supervisory approach, we have conducted an initial assessment of the platforms (based on the information we currently have available to us) and grouped similar platforms as follows:

  • Group A platforms: Platforms in this group are likely to have particularly high reach or have other features which require more proactive engagement from Ofcom. We expect to have close regular engagement with platforms in this group across a number of our priority areas of focus.
  • Group B platforms: These are platforms which host, allow or specialise in videos containing pornographic material (so called “adult platforms”). Ofcom’s interaction with these platforms is most likely to be focused on specific priority areas, such as age verification.
  • Group C platforms: These are platforms which do not fall into either groups A or B. Ofcom expects to engage with these platforms as necessary to raise standards in user protections.

Our assessment of which group each platform falls into is informed by a number of factors, including:

  • the reach of the platform;
  • the profile of its users, including whether or not the platform is used by children;
  • how easy the platform is to access;
  • the nature of the videos available on the platform;
  • whether the platform specializes in adult content; and,
  • the measures the platform currently has in place to protect users from harm.

Next steps

We will continue to assess our supervisory approach as we learn more about risks to users and the safety measures platforms have in place. We will be gathering further information in the coming months through our planned engagement and information requests, which will further inform these groupings and our wider work.

In addition to supporting our wider work, the information we collect will inform our Autumn 2022 VSP report, which intends to increase the public’s awareness of the measures platforms have in place to protect users from harm.

This document sets out Ofcom’s approach and plan of work around video sharing platforms (VSP) – websites and apps, established in the UK, that allow users to share video, such as TikTok, OnlyFans and Twitch.

Since the VSP regulations were passed into law in autumn 2020, we have been developing and implementing the regulatory framework to support the new VSP rules, including consulting on new guidance. To accompany the publication of our VSP guidance, this document sets out what we’ll do over the course of this regime to raise standards in user protection and address areas of poor compliance. We also outline the priority areas of focus for the next 12 months.

Video-sharing platforms: Ofcom's plan and approach (PDF, 685.8 KB)

Llwyfannau rhannu fideos: Cynllun a dull gweithredu Ofcom (PDF, 867.5 KB)

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