Online video sharing platforms established in the United Kingdom are subject to rules to protect users from harmful material. The communications regulator Ofcom has outlined how it plans to approach such regulation. While a few services fall within scope, some of the biggest global platforms, including YouTube and Facebook are not currently regulated services in the United Kingdom.

The requirement for regulation stems from the European Audiovisual Media Service directive of 2018 and came into effect in November 2020.

Regulation currently applies to video sharing platforms established in the United Kingdom, including Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, Vimeo, and Only Fans. 18 services have registered with Ofcom since a legal obligation to notify the regulator came into effect in April 2021.

These video sharing platforms are obliged to use measures to protect children from potentially harmful material and to protect all users from certain types of illegal material and incitement to violence or hatred.

Unlike with television and radio, Ofcom will not generally assess individual items of material, but will focus on systems and processes that protect users from harmful material.

Ofcom has published guidance for video sharing platforms. This is not compulsory but aims to guide providers in deciding how best to comply with the statutory requirements.

The current regime is likely to be superseded by new Online Safety legislation, which will address a wider range of protections and provide a greater set of duties and powers from Ofcom.

Until then, Facebook and YouTube are likely to be regulated by the Irish regulator.

Ofcom plans to publish its first annual report on Video Sharing Platforms in the autumn of 2022. It says that providing users with measurable information about safety measures on platforms in scope will in turn raise industry standards.