Assessing the risk of foreign influence in UK search results
The Foreign Interference Offence, as set out in the National Security Act (2023), seeks to make forms of state-linked interference in the UK more difficult. The offence has also been included in the Online Safety Bill as a priority offence, requiring services to assess the risk of this activity taking place on their service and put in place proportionate measures to effectively mitigate and manage the risks from it. Once the Online Safety Bill becomes law, Ofcom will become the regulator for online safety in the UK.
As a part of our preparatory work, we have been carrying out research to build an evidence base and our understanding in relation to offences and our responsibilities included in the Online Safety Bill. We commissioned the Alliance for Securing Democracy to carry out research into how forms of manipulation or interference could take place via via online search services.
We also have statutory duties to promote and carry out research into media literacy under the Communications Act 2003. A primary way we seek to fulfil our existing duties is through our Making Sense of Media programme, which aims to help improve the online skills, knowledge and understanding of children and adults in the UK. The report helps to inform our media literacy role by extending and enriching our understanding of the types of environments users could encounter risks of foreign interference activities.