Media literacy

UK government releases online media literacy strategy to empower users to make safe choices online – Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment

UK: UK government releases online media literacy strategy to enable users to make safe choices online

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The UK government is releasing an online media literacy strategy to enable users to make safe choices online and to help organizations undertake media literacy activities in a more coordinated way.

Key dates)

  • October 27, 2020 – The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) releases a summary of its review of the evidence for online media literacy.

  • December 15, 2020 – The DCMS has published the Online Harms white paper.

  • April 2021 – The DCMS publishes the reports of phases 1 and 2 of their mapping and literature review exercise.

  • May 12, 2021 – DCMS publishes the Online Safety Bill which establishes a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online.

  • July 14, 2021 – DCMS publishes the Online Media Literacy Strategy and its first action plan for the 21/22 fiscal year.


  • On December 15, 2020, the DCMS released the Online Harm White Paper in response to its consultation on the government’s plans to regulate and tackle online harm. As part of the Online Harms White Paper, DCMS has committed to developing an online media literacy strategy ahead of the implementation of an online harms regulator.

  • On July 14, 2021, DCMS released the promised Online Media Literacy Strategy (the “Strategy”). The many reactions from stakeholders highlighted that there are six key cross-sectoral challenges that act as barriers to improving the media literacy capabilities of users in the UK. These are:
    • a lack of evaluation in which media literacy initiatives are most effective;

    • a lack of stable and long-term funding;

    • non-traditional training required for hard-to-reach audiences (for example, those who are disengaged by the issue of online safety or those with limited internet access);

    • a lack of specific/targeted media literacy provisions tailored to vulnerable users (eg those supported by social workers/educators, etc.);

    • a need beyond legislation to build public resilience to misinformation and disinformation; and

    • a lack of necessary coordination between the different organizations in the sector.

What he hopes to achieve

  • The strategy aims to educate and empower all UK internet users to stay safe online.

  • The Strategy also hopes to help organizations undertake media literacy activities in a more coordinated, wide-ranging and high-quality manner over the next three years.

  • Specifically, the Strategy seeks to support these goals in four ways:
    • set a strategic direction for the future of media education in the UK;

    • ensuring a coordinated approach to media education activity;

    • address key gaps in the media literacy landscape; and

    • reduce barriers and create opportunities for organizations undertaking media literacy activities.

Who does it impact?

  • All companies with user-facing online platforms should be aware of the goals and challenges highlighted by the strategy, especially those with vulnerable end users and content creation and social media platforms from broad sources.

  • All end-users of these online services should benefit from increased awareness and action on the Strategy

Key points

  1. Simplify the steps users can take to protect their privacy online
    • Companies should provide terms and conditions that are easy for users to access, review, and understand about how their personal data is being used.

    • There should also be a simple and easy mechanism for users to review and change their privacy setting.

  1. Clarity around how the online environment works to allow users to make informed decisions
    • Companies must be transparent about how user data is used to operate their platforms and where the content originated (e.g. if it was sponsored)

  1. Users should understand how content is created and critically analyze content
    • Companies should clearly differentiate fake content in an age-appropriate way and encourage users to think critically about the source of the information (e.g. warn users when they are about to share content disputed or found to be false).

  1. A reminder that online actions have offline consequences
    • Companies should provide guidance and support to users who experience unwanted/hateful behavior, as well as remind users of the potential consequences before they post online.

  2. Encourage online participation while reminding users of the risks
    • Businesses should provide users with prompts and guidance on safe online interactions with others, especially when coming into contact with someone outside of their regular online network.

    • Companies are also advised to make it easier for users to report any suspicious or dangerous engagement with other users.

Originally published July 14, 2021

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.

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